horse racing

What we learned from the weekend: 20th & 21st December…

That was a bit of a quieter weekend now firmly encased in the form books. A bit of a ‘calm-before-the-Xmas-storm’ sort of couple of days.

Nevertheless there is always something to learn from a weekend of National Hunt action and here are this weeks three ‘What we learned from the weekend’ thoughts and pointers…


What we learned from the weekend: 20th & 21st December… 

1. Is UN DE SCEAUX a worthy 7/2 shot for the Arkle in March?

He’s a talented beast, I’m not denying that. He’s a horse I actually quite like. He made up for his spill on chasing debut in November with a straightforward victory at Fairyhouse at the weekend, in the only manner he knows how – “hi my unworthy opponents, here is my arse, be prepared to see it disappear into the distance for the next two miles, I’ll wait at the finishing line for you and give you a sarcastic clap as you crawl home at wide intervals behind me”.

There was nothing surprising about the manner of his victory but it’s actually his chasing debut performance I want to concentrate on here.

With that in mind, and for the third year in a row, it’s time to wheel out this old NTF chestnut…

Do we want to be backing a first time faller/un-seater for festival success?

Yes, that one. Long term followers of NTF will be plenty familiar with this line of thinking.

If we take a look back at the chase debuts of the Arkle top 3 finishers over the past 13 seasons one thing is glaringly obvious; it is a huge advantage to stay on your feet on chasing debut if you are to have any pretensions of having a say in the finish of the premier two mile grade one novice chase.

In fact the bare figures tell you its a massive advantage to not only stay on your feet but to have actually WON on your chasing debut.

Take a look at the last 13 Arkle top 3 finishers and how they fared on their respective Chasing debuts…


Western Warhorse – 1st on Chasing Debut

Champagne Fever – 1st

Trifolium – 1st


Simonsig – 1st

Bailey Green – 3rd

His Excellency – 1st


Sprinter Sacre – 1st

Cue Card – 1st

Menorah – UR (beaten 29 lengths in Arkle)


Captain Chris – 2nd

Finians Ranbow – 1st

Realt Dubh – 1st


Sizing Europe – 1st

Somersby – 1st

Osana – 1st


Forpadytheplasterer – 1st

Kalahari King – 1st

Planet Of Sound – 4th


Tidal Bay – 1st

Kruguyrova – 1st

Noland – 1st


My Way De Solzen – 1st (PU on only chase start in France as a 4yo before moving to A King)

Fair Along – 1st

Jack The Giant – 1st


Voy Por Ustedes – 1st

Monets Garden – 1st

Foreman – 2nd


Contraband – 2nd

Ashley Brook – 1st

River City – 1st


Well Chief – 1st

Kicking King – 5th

Le Duc – 1st


Azertyuiop – 1st

Impek – 1st

Isio – 1st


Moscow Flyer – FELL

Seebald – 1st

Armaturk – 1st

So from the last 39 Arkle Chase top 3 finishers…..

31 WON on their Chase debut

34 finished in the top 2 on their Chase debut

Only TWO failed to complete the course on their chase debut….and one of those was the mighty MOSCOW FLYER! (the other was the not so mighty, but still well above average, Menorah)

If we look a bit deeper and concentrate only on the Arkle winners and their form figures over fences in the season leading up to their Arkle triumph then we get the following…

Western Warhorse – 1

Simonsig – 11

Sprinter Sacre – 111

Captain Chris – 2221

Sizing Europe – 1111

Forpadydeplasterer – 1222

Tiday Bay – 1112

My Way De Solzen – 1211

Voy Por Ustedes – 1111

Contraband – 2213

Well Chief – 1

Azertyuiop – 111

Moscow Flyer – F111F

Only 1 of 13 failed to complete on ALL starts before their Arkle triumph (Moscow Flyer, who actually had TWO falls from his five starts!!)

11 of the 13 were yet to finish out with the top two on all chase starts before the Arkle, only Contraband stops that from being 12 from 13 as he finished…wait for it…3rd on one of his runs! 

The figures really don’t look all that promising for Un De Sceaux to go on and achieve Arkle Chase success at the 2015 Cheltenham Festival in March.

Obviously racing is not always as cut and dry as this (if only!!) but failing to complete on chasing debut is far from ideal and if there is one chink in Un De Sceaux’s armour it is his exuberance, an exuberance that cost him on chase debut and may well cost him again in the future.

Is a clear round on debut a major key to Arkle success?

The figures point firmly towards YES.

Is completing on ALL chase starts in your Novice season leading up to the Arkle a key component to Festival glory?

The stats point in no uncertain terms to YES. (Unless of course your name is Moscow Flyer, then you can do what the hell you want!!!)

Jumping is,after all, the name of the game…….

That fall on chasing debut was far from the ideal start for UDS on the road to Arkle glory…


2. Sam Twiston-Davies is still waiting for that elusive first hurdling victory at Ascot…

…and there were a couple of sore defeats in that sphere last weekend!

EMERGING TALENT – Fell at the second last when still in with a shout

ZARKANDAR – 4/6 fav for the Long Walk Hurdle and touched 1.01 in-running

PINE CREEK – Beaten a neck in the Ladbroke and STD given a 4 day ban for the ride

Those three rides looked like golden opportunities for him to break his Ascot duck. But it didn’t happen.

His figures over the Ascot hurdles now read…

0/32 | 0% S/R | -£32.00 BFLSP – Win & Place 11/32 | 34% S/R

A set of coincidental figures or something more?

There is no doubt those losses are now starting to add up and I’m leaning towards the thinking that he either hasn’t quite mastered the Ascot hurdles track or the lay-out of the track just doesn’t suit his style of riding.

Plenty of jockeys have blind spots at certain tracks. They are, after all, only human. Right now the Ascot Hurdles track is STD’s blind spot.

Beware of taking short prices about STD hurdlers at Ascot…


3. THE YOUNG MASTER continues to impress and improve…

They may take his Badgers Ales Trophy but they will never take his Silver Cup Handicap Chase!!

The record books say he is three from four over fences but I prefer to see him as a clear cut four from four, improving with each effort and knocking on the door of graded level with all four hooves.

Neil Mulholland’s 5yo once again stood out in the staying chase division as an exciting youngster when taking the valuable Silver Cup Chase at Ascot on Saturday. Despite throwing in a few ‘lefty’ jumps he still won in decisive fashion and gained much deserved compensation for the Wincanton farce that occurred last month.

What really stood out to me was the fact that he will probably be considerably better going the other way round. As already mentioned he did throw in a few ‘lefty’ jumps on Saturday, as he also did in ‘victory’ at Wincanton, but he still had more than enough up his sleeve to repel this decent looking field.

As a novice connections do have the option of going down the RSA route at the Cheltenham Festival in March but his latest victory yet again has me pondering the question ‘is he a potential Gold Cup candidate‘?

It is still an almighty leap between what he has done so far and the Gold Cup but he is taking all the right steps and at this rate of improvement he wouldn’t look out of place in chasing’s blue riband event.

His pedigree far from shouts ‘THREE MILE STAYING CHASER’ as he is from the first crop of Godolphin’s Echo Of Light! However, he is positively laughing at the genetic traits he has been provided with and is ploughing his own path to stardom. That suggests to me he is a bit of a freak. That’s exciting. Very exciting! It’s very much a guessing game as to where his limits may be. Based on what we have witnessed so far those limits are still some way off.

The sky could be the limit for this exciting 5yo…


As always I would love to hear your opinions on the weekends racing.

I would also like to take this opportunity to wish all NTF readers a very Merry Christmas. I hope you have a great day but also remember to leave plenty in the tank for a racing fans real Christmas Day – The feast that is National Hunt racing on Boxing Day! Bring it on!

I’ll leave you with a bit of an alternative Xmas song for you to enjoy. Something a bit different from the usual tosh we get force fed at this time of the year!!

*Warning – Explicit lyrical content!

Cheers and Happy Christmas Punting – Ben (NTF)

Stats sourced from the excellent Proform Database

Proform Racing | The professional Formbook

7 responses to “What we learned from the weekend: 20th & 21st December…”

  1. Cheers Ben…
    for this thought-provoking Xmas cracker & those throughout the Year.
    How does Un de Sceaux’s nascent Fencing profile compare re. Champion Chase?
    Cheers and AllTheBest ~
    PaulJo $

    • Hi PaulJo

      Glad you have been enjoying the posts.

      Bit early to be profiling UDS up to Champion Chase standards. Don’t think a debut fall will effect the stats too much for that contest…

      Ben (NTF)

  2. I was having that very same thought about the young master after the badger ales “victory” I saw it win at Cheltenham in the flesh and there was just something about it that that got me thinking this could be special horse. Still a fair way to get the offical rating of 175ish to win a GC. I’ll be on for the RSA for sure

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