Bristol De Mai put in another exemplary round of jumping over the larger obstacles.
Another step closer to the Cheltenham Festival and a few more bubbles popping, or at least momentarily deflating, after some high-octane weekend action.
Yes we are well and truly into that stage of the season and there were some serious festival players not quite doing the business at the weekend. The main perpetrators this time around being Ivanovich Gorbatov, Bellshill, On The Fringe, Road To Riches and Peace And Co, who all failed to justify cramped odds in their respective races whilst at the same time doing some serious damage to their Cheltenham Festival odds.
It’s all part and parcel of the game though and they haven’t irreversibly damaged their festival hopes (well maybe Peace And Co has!), just briefly let some wind out of their sails.
The weekend wasn’t only about those shorties getting turned over though, far from it, and there was plenty going on up and down the country to tickle our National Hunt taste buds, so here’s my sideways swipe on the jumping action in this week’s ‘What we learned from the weekend‘ post…
What we learned from the weekend: 6th & 7th February…
1. BRISTOL DE MAI is probably even better than the bare form suggests…
Nigel Twiston-Davies’ 5yo fired in another round of exemplary jumping on his way to landing his first Chasing G1 at the weekend, landing the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase by a comfortable 6 lengths.
It was his 4th chasing victory from six starts and his third victory in a row at the 2m4f trip, a trip he is currently unbeaten at.
It’s not hard to come to the conclusion this was his most impressive performance to date, both visually and in respect to the horses he beat, but that wasn’t what stood out the most for me.
Pre-race I had noted the terrible record of the Twiston-Davies string at Sandown.
Since 2010 they had the following abysmally poor stats…
1/57 | 2% S/R | -£54.58 BFLSP – 82% below expectations
It should also be noted that the NTD chasers were 0/32 over the Sandown fences in the same period.
For some reason the Twiston-Davies string really were not acting around the demanding track. It’s not always abundantly clear why certain trainers runners fail to act as well at certain tracks but it happens all the time and Sandown had very much been a ‘blind spot’ for the NTD string in recent seasons, they had consistently underperformed.
When I see stats like that get ‘busted’ (for use of a better word) I take notice. It was a big negative for Bristol De Mai to overcome, but overcome it he did and he did with style.
It says plenty about this horse’s class that he was able to win so comfortably at a track that previously hadn’t suited the yards horses, and to me that makes the performance all that much better.
It’s clear NTD has a serious horse on his hands here, one that’s won six of his 13 starts including two G1’s and a G2, and he deserves to be talked about as a serious Cheltenham festival contender.
He’s currently entered in the JLT Novices’ Chase and the RSA Chase although it sounds like he’s very much being targeted at the shorter of the two (JLT) and that, to me, looks a very sensible option.
On the Dosage front he wouldn’t be a negative for the RSA Chase but he also wouldn’t be a positive. That race very much suits those with serious lashings of stamina in their pedigree and that’s not really Bristol De Mai’s strong suit, for all that he may well stay 3m+ trips in the future.
The JLT Chase is still in it’s infancy with only five previous renewals so it’s not one that I’m able to get a serious grip on from a Dosage, or indeed trends, perspective, however, Bristol De Mai has almost identical Dosage figures to the last four winners of the race, figures I would be expecting for a race of this nature based on similar races over C&D, and for me he looks a prime fit on the tentative trends I’m beginning to draw up for the race.
Only five renewals are not really enough to make a concrete assessment on the race from a Dosage perspective but even in these early days a trend is beginning to take shape and Bristol De Mai would very much fit that trend.
The JLT is definitely the correct race for him and I would be extremely disappointed should they not go down that route.
I do have one small (very small) quibble over the horse and that’s the fact that the two times he’s bumped into an equally exciting horse he’s been beaten (Garde La Victoire & Ar Mad) and beaten comfortably. In his defence they were both over the 2m trip and he’s clearly considerably better over the 2m4f trip, probably at least 10lbs better.
Make no mistake NTD has a serious horse on his hands in BDM.
2. The Gold Cup winner almost certainly wasn’t contesting the Irish (Hennessy) Gold Cup on Saturday…
The newly named ‘Irish Gold Cup’ was, in equal parts, a confusing, gripping, frustrating and unbelievable affair!
It’s never been the best trial for the Gold Cup anyway and none of the last 19 winners of the race have gone on to capture the Gold Cup itself; there’s a very good chance Carlingford Lough will make that none of the last 20, main reason being that the demanding fences take their toll on him at Prestbury Park, based on his previous two starts at the track.
Not only have none of the last 19 winners of the race gone on to do the Gold Cup double but only ONE of the previous 19 Gold Cup winners have even run in the Irish Hennessy that season before going on to win at Cheltenham (Lord Windermere – 2014).
For me Valseur Lido should really have won on Saturday. He was cruising coming to the last and Ruby had yet to press any buttons on him. If he had jumped that fence cleanly he would have won, hands down. But he didn’t jump it cleanly and he didn’t win. End of.
Even if he had won I couldn’t have him as a Cheltenham Gold Cup winner as his Dosage figures are completely wrong for the race.
Hot fav Road To Riches, who was being talked of as a lively Gold Cup outsider in plenty of places, ran a very odd race on Saturday and it’s probably a miracle he even managed to finish second in the end (helped no end by the departure of Valseur Lido). For me he’s a shade below the top of the tree players at 3 miles anyway, as proven by his third placed finish in last seasons Gold Cup and Punchestown Gold Cup. That’s as good as he is in my eyes.
Third placed Fine Rightly ran a blinder at lofty odds…or did he? He actually just equalled his best chase mark, which he has run to on each of last three starts. He ran to form basically, which doesn’t bode well for those in behind him.
Foxrock (4th) doesn’t travel well (as in actually travel, not travel in his races, which he does well enough).
Gilgamboa (5th) probably doesn’t stay 3 miles.
…and I won’t bother talking about the others and their Gold Cup ‘hopes’!
I’d be shocked if this race turned out to have any bearing on the Gold Cup in March.
As is often the case it’s the Christmas G1’s that we should be looking towards for Gold Cup clues (King George & Lexus) with 11 of the last 15 Gold Cup winners finishing in the top 2 of that years King George or Lexus (14/15 at least ran in that seasons King George or Lexus).
That leaves us with CUE CARD, VAUTOUR, DON POLI & FIRST LIEUTENANT.
OK that actually leaves us with CUE CARD, VAUTOUR, & DON POLI!!!
An argument could be made to give DON COSSACK a free pass into that little group as well (obviously he didn’t officially finish in the top 2 but as I said an argument could be constructed…maybe…).
The Irish (Hennessy) Gold Cup was a fair old race but once again it’s unlikely to provide us with the Cheltenham Gold Cup winner…
3. LE REVE proved he’s a bit of a demon when he gets his prime conditions…
…and boy did he have his prime conditions on Saturday at Sandown.
His form had been a bit in and out on his four previous runs this term but that was no surprise as he is a horse that needs a certain set of conditions to be at his best.
Those conditions are…
Right-Hand flat or slightly undulating tracks
Good to Soft or Soft ground
Fields of 10 or less runners
Class 2 level or below
2m3f – 3m trips
Prior to Saturday he only had those conditions once before this season and that’s when he finished a solid second behind the clearly well-handicapped Kruzhlinin. A horse who had also been rejuvenated for the switch to Philip Hobbs.
When you look at his form under only the conditions highlighted above you get the following form line…
That’s ALL six of his career wins from only 33% of his career starts. When meeting with the conditions described above he’s yet to finish out of the first two. That’s a trend horse if every I’ve seen one!
For me the most important angle of the lot is a right-handed track.
That’s backed up by his form line when racing on left-handed tracks…
The closest he has finished has been a 17 length 10th (when racing left-handed).
He’ll most likely get put up to a career mark for this latest win, and that brings it’s own questions, but as long as he’s going right-handed he should run his race (even if not all the other conditions highlighted above are met).
So suitable targets going forward from this?
BetBright Chase at Kempton – Irish National at Fairyhouse – Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown…
Sure he won’t get all his favourite conditions met but he’ll be going right-handed and he’ll be able to give his all going his preferred way round.
Un-suitable targets for him?
The Aintree Grand National for one.
Except that is indeed the plan!
Trainer Lucy Wadham stated on Sunday that “Le Reve is back on track. The Grand National dream is still alive and I think that’s where we are looking at going. That will probably be it now and I would think we will wait for the National.”
One major, glaring problem with that though… Aintree is LEFT-HANDED!
And I’ll just highlight that left-handed track form again…
4-U-U-3-P-P-0-6 – never nearer than a 17 length 10th!
In fact if you look at the prime condition I highlighted for LE REVE he probably won’t be meeting with any of them at Aintree in the spring, except maybe the ground conditions.
Hmmmmm, I reckon there could be better plans for this likeable horse…
Irish National over Aintree National would surely be a better target for Le Reve?
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Ben – NTF
Stats sourced from the excellent Proform Database