Another festival flashes by and as always there are several points to take away from the greatest four days of racing on the globe.
By far the biggest eye-catcher of the week came in the Arkle Chase during which KALASHNIKOV was brought down at the sixth obstacle when galloping and jumping ominously well under Jack Quinlan.
I was quite frankly baffled that his astute trainer ran him on much quicker ground and right handed earlier in the season, although Amy Murphy may well have had a viable excuse due to a lack of opportunities on both fronts.
All of his best form, bar none, has come on left-handed galloping tracks in deep going and Aintree awaits if the weather gods can supply the ammunition. Of the three big-priced winners I put up in my pre-Festival column here (Beware the Bear, Espoir D’Allen & Ch*tbello), Kalashniknov not being able to show how good he is was a disappointment.
Beware the Champion Hurdle result. The champion fell, both mares didn’t travel a yard and were beaten by halfway and it was won by a five-year-old that was hugely flattered. Expect a turnaround in form at Punchestown.
LE BREUIL was a game winner of the four mile National Hunt Chase but was given a brutally hard ride by JJ Codd that looks sure to have left its mark, something it may have done to Rathvinden in the 2018 lung bursting edition. It cannot be just coincidence that the latter as run just the twice in 11 months since that success.
SANTINI doesn’t have the gears to deal with the best novices over a bare three miles and always looked susceptible in the RSA, but a soft ground Gold Cup will surely be more his cup of tea. Will Mr Henderson do a Mr Tizzard and take him back to Cheltenham via a Welsh National? I certainly would.
TIGER ROLL hosed up in the Cross Country, BUT only won in the style he was entirely entitled to do so against some very slow and quite frankly moderate rivals and yet his odds for the Grand National were ravaged. WHY? He now makes the book for the rest of the field in the Aintree spectacular.
PAISLEY PARK looked to have it all to do two from home in the Stayers Hurdle, but Aidie Coleman knew exactly what he had underneath him and his charge closed down the leaders like a hot knife through butter from the hoem turn and but for a bad mistake at the last hurdle he would have won by eight lengths or more. He could dominate this division for some time.
But that was then and this is now…
The Midlands National at Uttoxeter (3.35pm) is going to be a right old lung-buster if the meeting survives the awful weather forecast that is making its way towards the track.
At the time of writing the ground is described as soft and heavy in places and the track could get up to an inch of rain which would obviously put the card in doubt. So it goes without saying possible non stayers need not apply and hippo deep mud ground lovers are the order of the day.
Last year’s winner, Regal Flow, absolutely hosed up in this four and a quarter mile contest last year beating Milansbar easily. The two are back for more galloping fun, but both have question marks over them with the latter well into the veteran stage and the former having shown absolutely nothing this season.
Top weights American and Ms Parfois both love a trip and the mud, but the former despite being a course winner has shown nothing of late and is desperately hard to train, while the mare has gone through two wind operations. If that has cleared up the problem and she returns to her best then off a mark of 146 she could be too classy for these.
I’m inclined to side with Jammin Masters may be on a career-high-mark courtesy of finishing second four times…but all he does is stay. A prominent racer, I suspect this trip will bring about some improvement and the ground certainly won’t worry him.
I thought that ENVOYE SPECIAL was a little bit disappointing for Paul Nicholls last time out, but he is still learning the game and may be able to give the weight away to Timoteo in the Kempton 2.05.
HONEST VIC has rock solid each-way claims in the following Silver Plate Handicap Hurdle at 2.40, but the most interesting wager on the Sunbury-on-Thames card could come in the form of KANSAS CITY CHIEF in the 3.15. Neil Mulholland’s charge has faced some stiff tasks this season, but this is easier and the handicapper has relented and dropped the 10-year-old 7lbs this season to 130.
Back at Uttoxeter, Solstice Star will adore the hock deep ground and should run well under top weight in the 1.50, but I’m not too sure he can give 12lbs away to NEARLY PERFECT who is well treated here and has been signalling that his turn is just around he corner.
LOUGH DERG FARMER finally came good last time out and the handicapper hasn’t been too harsh on him in the staying handicap chase at 2.25. As long as his jumping holds up, the seven-year-old may be able to outstay the likes of De Rasher Counter and the lightly raced Late Romantic.
And finally, with 20 runners going to post including three confirmed front runners and any number of pressers the two and a half mile handicap hurdle at 3.00 will be a searching test at he trip and that will suit light weight ACEY MILAN down to the ground.