Fingal Bay: Nothing if not frustrating!
The Mullins stable stars were out in force again at the weekend, this time it was the turn of Un De Sceaux, Vroom Vroom Mag, Douvan and the machine that is Faugheen. A combined winning distance of 38.5L tells you all you need to know about those four ‘superstars’ as they continue their own relentless march towards Cheltenham Festival domination in March.
But you don’t want hear more about them do you! Their performances have been covered in-depth enough already and I doubt I could tell you anything you don’t already know…so I won’t bother trying!
Instead I’ll take a bit more of a sideways glance at the racing that has just entered the form book, in the latest version of ‘What we learned from the weekend’…
What we learned from the weekend: 23rd & 24th January…
1. Fingal Bay continues to frustrate over fences…
Over hurdles and in bumpers he has a form line of 111112115 (including a Festival victory)
Over fences he has a form line of 12RP32433
Thing is he isn’t a bad jumper or anything like that and apart from that strange run-out at Exeter on his third chase start (which subsequently had him off the track for 14 months) he hasn’t actually done anything all that wrong over fences.
He just continues to offer hope but ultimately frustrate…and that’s bloody frustrating!
He finished a 20L 3rd on Saturday in the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock and whilst that was an OK enough run he never really looked like the potential winner at any stage during that contest.
So what’s the key to getting him back to winning ways over fences?
I had an inclining that maybe a small drop back in trip would be the key as he has form of 1111112R12 over 2m – 2m7.5f whilst his 3m+ form is ‘only’ 215P3433. I’m far from convinced by that angle though and his run on Saturday didn’t really back that up as he did plug on well in the deep ground conditions and he didn’t run like a ‘non-stayer’.
It could be that he wants things a bit faster over fences to show his best as although he has winning form on Soft & Heavy over hurdles his fences ground splits read…
Good to Soft & Good ground – 12323
Soft & Heavy ground – RP43 (beaten 20L on both completions)
The other angle I think plays a key part in his performances is track type.
I’m now very much starting to think that he really wants a very undulating track to attack to be seen at his best.
Here are the splits…
Form on Very Undulating tracks – 1111R1123 (6/9)
Form on Undulating, Slightly Undulating and Flat tracks – 11225P343 (2/9)
That’s staring to swing pretty heavily to him desperately needing a very undulating track (a Cheltenham, Chepstow or Exeter for example) to show his true colours.
There is no doubt he is a fantastically well-handicapped chaser at present. OR 142 must be well-within his capabilities (won the Pertemps Final over hurdles off OR 148) and given the correct conditions – a very undulating track on Good to Soft or better ground – he looks a handicap good thing waiting to strike.
Don’t write off old Fingal just yet…
2. Gibralfaro threw his hat in the Triumph Hurdle ring…
It was a difficult race for him to make that strong an impression in (12.40 Ascot) but he ground out the win in solid fashion and he and Paul Nicholls’ French import Connetable finished a healthy 25L+ clear of the rest of the field.
It’s unlikely that he would have wanted to have made all the running so the fact he did lead from pillar to post AND still manage to repel the challenge of the Nicholls horse when it attacked at the last says plenty about his constitution and battling qualities.
You would certainly want to see him again before marking him down as a real live Triumph player (the plan seems to be to get another run into him) but in winning this Ascot contest he joined a hefty list of classy juveniles who have won the race and gone on to bigger and better things.
In recent years the likes of Top Notch, Balder Success, Grandouet, Zaynar & Binocular have all been successful in the Class 3 contest and considering his trainer Alan King marked him out as a Triumph type straight after his debut win at Kempton there must be a decent chance Gibralfaro can go on to similar success as the other top class winners of the race.
On the Dosage front (and the Triumph is a strong Dosage race) his figures would be in the ball park of recent winners and, providing he takes another step forward on his next start, he would need to be considered as a serious Triumph Hurdle player.
Its so far so good for Gibralfaro over timber…
3. The changing of the 2 mile guard is about to take place at the Gary Moore yard…
Sire De Grugy has, quite rightly, been the stable star and apple of the Moore yards eye for the past few seasons. As a 10yo old, however, the cracks are perhaps just starting to show.
But that’s cool, he’s been there and done it all and the Moore’s need not worry because in the wings they have a youngster ready and waiting to fill SDG’s shoes.
His name is TRAFFIC FLUIDE.
He’s always been highly though of by Gary Moore and he’s stated previously that he wanted to have a “slow build up” with him “as I think he´s a special horse”.
That patience looks like it’s soon to be rewarded.
The 6yo was sent straight into the heat of the fire on Saturday for his seasonal debut in the Grade 1 Clarence House Chase and came within a short-head of snatching the runners-up spot from his more experienced stable-mate Sire De Grugy, whilst at the same time only finishing 5 lengths behind the beast that is Un De Sceaux.
Traffic Fluide was never really put into this race until around 3 out, being held up out the back and being allowed to take his time to work into the contest, but when asked for his effort he looked stylish, progressive and certainly well up to Grade 1 level.
He recorded a career best RPR figure here of 167, some 12lbs higher than his previous best, and with this run in the bank he can surely breach the 170 mark at some stage this season.
His form last term has held up well given that he beat the now 154 rated Seventh Sky by 6L and then 10L before going on to finish a credible third in the G1 Maghull Novices’ Chase at Aintree in the spring.
The Sodexo Chase has been a great guide in recent seasons for the Queen Mother Champion Chase (5 of last 8 QMCC winners having won or finished runner-up in the race – Traffic Fluide all but finished runner-up in this) and although Moore’s new 2 mile star does need to progress again to be a serious challenger for the 2 mile crown there are plenty of signs he will indeed do just that.
Move over Sire De Grugy it’s time for Traffic Fluide to steal the show!