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All Photos: Credit Florian Christoph
The big race of the day was held at Ascot today. Despite only attracting a small field, the Ascot Chase shaped to be a cracker. In the end it was Balder Succes who won a deserved first Grade 1 outside Novice’ company. A good round of jumping, he travelled well throughout and beat smart filly Ma Filleule comprehensively.
Trainer Alan King was quoted afterwards: “He was very good today and since going over fences he has been good all the way through. He’s more mature now mentally. We’ve got to stick to the Ryanair route.”
Ma Filleule is likely to go down the same route. Second favourite Ballycasey was a big disappointing and dropped out as soon as it really mattered to show some fighting spirit. The 6/4 favourite Ptit Zig didn’t complete the race. He was a faller at the tenth fence. Thankfully he was quickly up to his feet and fine after the race
It’s Weekend! Some great racing ahead. Several Graded races in the UK and Ireland. Ascot Chase on Saturday as the highlight of course, but there is also some great action at Gowran Park and Navan, plus some excellent All-Weather racing from Lingfield. Enjoy all the fantastic racing and good luck whatever you bet!
One couldn’t have written the tale any better. There is Tony McCoy, the world’s most successful jockey. A legend of this sport. One whose name is synonymous with jump racing. There he is, announcing his retirement at the end of the season. He did this after winning a big race at Newbury on Saturday. He wanted to do it on his own terms. Put and end to the speculations surrounding him and his 20th champion jockey title.
And there he is, parading in front of the frenetic Leopardstown crowd. He and his mount Carlingford Lough just won main event, the Hennessy Gold Cup. Just another piece in the breathtaking career, for McCoy, the once little boy, born in Moneyglass, Country Antrim of Northern Ireland, who made his way to the summit of the sport without the benefit of having a family with background in the game.
This morning on the way to work I heard an interview with him on the Irish radio station Newstalk FM. McCoy, collected, calm, yet somehow emotional in his voice, reflected on the weekend, his decision to retire – but felt awkwardly distanced to the idea of what may lie in front of him – once he jumps off the horses back for the last time. What’s then AP? Who knows. For the moment, it is hard to envision jump racing without him. And thanks god, for a couple more weeks we don’t have to get used to this thought.
So let’s just sit back and enjoy the man at what he’s best: Riding winners! Relieve the Hennessy Gold Cup again, in the video below – it also has to be stated that I tipped McCoy and Carlingford Lough to win the Hennessy. Which obviously makes it an even better story… for me personally at least!
The start – a pivotal point of any horse race. Without it, we wouldn’t have a race. Simple as that, right? Whether a standing start in National Hunt, or out of starting gates on the flat – so many races have been lost right at the beginning.
I still remember beautiful filly Sariska very well. What a talented individual she was. But towards the end of her career, she refused to leave the gates when they would crashed open. She was odds-on, red hot favourite in her last two career starts and almost certain to win – if she would just run – but she lost the race literally at the start and was subsequently retired to the breeeding sheds.
There are numerous other examples of course, where horses stumble out, and are right far behind the field, or there are those of course who jump out as if concerned about their life, mad keen, unstoppable, burning off all energy. Remember Dawn Approach in the Derby?
Boston Bob, stays the trip and is fine on the ground but has been a bit disappointing in three starts this season. Needs to find back to his best to feature.
Carlingford Lough faded badly in the Lexus Chase in December after travelling well until the last. Better ground may well suit today and should strip fitter.
First Lieutenant hasn’t won since April 2013 and seems to regress. Chance on best form but plenty to find on recent showings.
Foxrock was an excellent Novice last season and did well this season as well. There might be still a bit improvement left in him, but he has to find a bit with most of this field.
Home Farm is still generally lightly raced and may well be a fresh horse after he fell at the first in the Lexus. He won a
Listed chase at Thurles back in November. Has stamina to prove today.
Lord Windermere hasn’t shown much since winning the Gold Cup last season. Obviously he is in with a chance judged on his best, but one has to wonder if this is only another prep towards Cheltenham?
On His Own was a strong runner-up in the Lexus after setting a gruelling pace for most parts. Runner-up in the Gold Cup last year and Ruby on board this time.
Texas Jack has all to prove over 3m today and on form shouldn’t be good enough.
Verdict: For me this race really evolves around the first three in the market. Foxrock may well have the improvement in him to feature here, but he hasn’t shown this kind of level of form that is required here normally, which is the case for Boston Bob, On His Own and Carlingford Lough the case, however. Boston Bob hasn’t convinced me this season in his two starts. He was rather fair and square beaten. Obviously on his best he’ll be a big runner with the good ground to suit.
But Ruby has opted for On His Own, the Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up, who finished in the same position in the Lexus. He’s a hardy horse, never knows when he is beaten. If he can set his own pace, and a less demanding one than in the Lexus, he could be tough to peg back. But how much has this tough recent race taken out of him?
Carlingford Lough in contrast has only his second start this season. He is an improving animal and the way he travelled super strongly in the Lexus until the last, caught my eye. He faded badly soon after, but on soft ground and first seasonal appearance, that can happen. I imagine him to strip fitter today, and the better ground should suit as well. He may be able to pull out a bit more improvement to put his head over the line when it matters.
Carlingford Lough @ 7/2 Coral – 5pts win
It’s been a busy Saturday racing wise. Top class National Hunt in the UK, rounded up by excellent Graded action over in the US during the night – can a racing fan ask for more? Well, I don’t think so! But hey, let’s quickly reflect on the key points from yesterday…
Coneygree could win a Gold Cup – sooner or later!
You will have seen my preview of the Denman Chase (I hope!) – a really exciting renewal of this Grade 1 at Newbury yesterday. It shaped to be a cracker beforehand, and it turned out to be quite a noteworthy race in the end, indeed! However, none could have foreseen what really happened.
As I stated in my preview, I was extremely sweet on the chance of Novice Coneygree. Lightly raced, a smart hurdler, taking extremely well to fences. An exciting prospect, that is was he was and after yesterday certainly is. He was so impressive at Kempton, such a good, relentless galloper with big potential, when winning the Kauto Star Novice Chase. But yesterday, he brought it to another level. Taking on some really talented, tough & experienced chasers, he jumped off in front and literally ran them into the ground. Turning for home he had the whole bunch sitting in his neck. They were all poised to take him on. Waiting for him to tire and fade. It was the ultimate real test for his class. What would he have left to offer in the home straight? Well, an awful lot, it turned out! He prevailed. Easily. Jumping well, not slowing down, just galloping strongly to the line. It was a demolition job and resulted in a breathtaking seven lengths success in the end. Coneygree has the “WOW factor”! So question is now: Arkle or Gold Cup – what’s next?
Grugy’s return a jumping error
Staying with jump racing for the moment: Saturday was the day we saw last years Champion Chaser Sire De Grugy back after his long injury absence. He clearly didn’t look his old best unfortunately, his jumping wasn’t good, he blundered badly at the fourth last and jumped the third last even worse, eventually unseating jockey Jamie Moore. That says the Champion Chase is up for grabs now. Grugy disappointed, so did Sprinter Sacre on his respective seasonal debut. Will both improve towards Cheltenham? Sure, they will. Will they be ever as good and dominant as they used to be in the past? Unlikely. Un De Sceaux. it’s all yours – if you want…
Dortmund plays it well in California
Over to the US and a brilliant card at Santa Anita. Usually at this time of the year, we have to start talking about the Derby – the Kentucky Derby I mean! And I do really wonder: Have we seen the Derby winner at Santa Anita yesterday? Because there is this extremely good looking colt, called Dortmund (how appropriately named, knowing how poorly the once famous German football club of the same named town is playing in the Bundesliga at the moment), who started into his classic season the same way as he ended the last year: with a gutsy performance, landing the Robert B. Lewis Stakes with a late surge! This should be a stepping stone for him towards the Derby. Admittedly, I was already mightily impressed with his attitude, presence and long stride when getting up late in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity Stakes in December. A son of Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown, he should have the right pedigree and the way he races suggests the Derby trip will suit. He’s currently trading as the 10/1 ante-post favourite….
Not quite #TheRematch
Shared Belief made it look easy in the end, when effectively eased down before crossing the line as the clear winner of what was branded as #TheRematch. He beat California Chrome by 1 1/2 lengths in the San Antonio Invitational. Shared Belief got a perfect start this time – unlike in the Breeders Cup Classic – tracked Chrome’s every move, and Mike Smith was probably rubbing his hands when Espinoza let Chrome lose – a bit too early I thought actually. That played into the hands of Shared Belief, who, once looming alongside Chrome in the home straight, went easily past him. Bob Baffert’s Hoppertunity ran a fine 3rd, but was never really able to challenge the two big guns. Reflecting on this race, I believe both, Shared Belief and California Chrome will come on for this run. Chrome is going to Dubai and will do well there. He has a chance to win the Dubai World Cup. But only if Shared Belief doesn’t go down the same route. Chrome could then be heading for Europe and some of the good turf races in England. Surly it would be interesting to see how he fares over here.
Winner, winner, chicken dinner
Oh before I forget: It’s nice to have a bit of punting success lately again. Coneygree went off a 15/8 favourite. If you followed me, you would have got 7/2, which turned out to be a huge price, as we know now. Also Shared Belief went off the evens favourite, I got him at 7/4 as advised. It wasn’t quite 3/3 yesterday. Ballista ran a cracker at Lingfield, made all, and would the winning post come a couple of yards earlier, he would have won. A narrowly denied third is what he ended up.
What’s on the tab today