Adam Houghton reveals which horses top the Timeform ratings in their division.
Timeform’s highest-rated novice hurdler:
Appreciate It (148p), Tuesday 13.20, Supreme Novices Hurdle
Runner-up to stablemate Ferny Hollow in the Champion Bumper at last season’s Cheltenham Festival, Appreciate It has quickly achieved a smart level of form over hurdles, winning all three starts by a cumulative margin of nearly 15 lengths. His last two wins both came in Grade 1s at Leopardstown, including a comfortable success in the Chanelle Pharma Novice Hurdle at last month’s Dublin Racing Festival.
He faced a stronger field there than he had at Christmas but still saw them off with the minimum of fuss. With a Timeform rating of 148p – the small ‘p’ denotes that he is likely to progress further. Appreciate It rates a worthy favourite for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Festival, representing the Willie Mullins yard which is seeking its fifth win in that race since 2013.
Timeform’s highest-rated novice chaser:
Monkfish (167p), Wednesday 1.55, Brown Advisory Novices Chase
This season’s novice chasers look a vintage crop, so it’s testament to what Monkfish has already achieved that he is comfortably the pick of them according to Timeform ratings. Monkfish developed into a smart staying novice hurdler last term, culminating with a game victory in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, and he has taken to chasing as well as could have been expected this term.
In fact, he produced a top-class display on just his third start when winning the Flogas Novice Chase at Leopardstown last time, jumping superbly and barely needing to come off the bridle to win by 11 lengths. Monkfish will take all the beating when he lines up in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham, especially when you factor in his scope for more improvement.
Goshen looked to have the world at his feet after the Triumph Hurdle at last season’s Cheltenham Festival, which he is likely to have won by around 10 lengths but for unseating his rider at the last. Admittedly, his reputation took a few knocks before the end of 2020 – he was beaten twice on the Flat and put up a listless effort when well held in the International Hurdle at Cheltenham in December – but he looked much more like his old self when easily winning the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton last time, powering home to beat some smart rivals by 22 lengths.
Needless to say, that performance put him right back in the Champion Hurdle picture, though it’s worth pointing out that Honeysuckle and Epatante will be favoured at the weights getting a seven pounds sex allowance from Goshen.
Timeform’s highest-rated staying hurdler:
Paisley Park (161), Thursday 3.05, Paddy Power Stayers Hurdle
Paisley Park ended last season on a low note, managing only seventh when attempting to win the Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival for the second year in succession (reportedly suffered from an irregular heartbeat). It’s fair to say that he has bounced back in no uncertain in terms this season, however, as he built on an encouraging reappearance with an unlikely victory in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot last time, where he came from a seemingly impossible position to reel in Thyme Hill, who had beaten him when the pair met at Newbury three weeks earlier.
The third clash between them in the latest edition of the Stayers’ Hurdle will be something to savour, but Paisley Park has the edge on Timeform ratings judged on his best form and should mount a bold bid to regain his crown.
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Chacun Pour Soi has won six of his seven starts over fences since joining Willie Mullins, including back-to-back renewals of the Dublin Chase at Leopardstown. He won the 2020 edition by four lengths from Min but was then ruled out of the Champion Chase due to a late setback, so his connections will be keen to make amends at this year’s Cheltenham Festival.
He certainly heads to the meeting as good as ever on the evidence of his latest victory in the Dublin Chase, where he quickened smartly on the run-in to win by eight lengths from Notebook and Put The Kettle On.
An outstanding chaser, Chacun Pour Soi is Timeform’s highest-rated horse in training, not just in the two-mile chasing division, and the fact he may yet have more to offer is a scary prospect for his potential rivals in the Champion Chase.
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All eyes will be on Al Boum Photo at the Cheltenham Festival as he attempts to become just the second horse since Arkle to win three successive renewals of the Gold Cup. Al Boum Photo will make his bid for history having followed the same preparation as when recording his other two triumphs at Cheltenham, easily beating inferior rivals at Tramore on New Year’s Day.
Whilst we may not see him on a racecourse very often, Al Boum Photo has left us in no doubt of his ability on his infrequent visits to the track, putting together a string of top-class performances.
Still in his prime and with so few miles on the clock, he remains the one to beat in his hat-trick bid, with the likes of A Plus Tard (169) and Champ (168p) both needing to improve to come up to his level.
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