Eye Catchers, by Andrew Watson
Week commencing 11th November, 2013
A great weekend of racing with top class action at Cheltenham and Punchestown with Johns Spirit winning the Paddy Power and Hurricane Fly beating Kauto Star’s record for Grade 1 wins. Both were impressive performances although I do not think the Fly will win the Champion Hurdle next year.
I could probably have listed at least another three or four eyecatchers due to the quality racing this weekend, but suggest you watch the key races from both Cheltenham and Punchestown on the Sporting Life’s website as you will no doubt you will spot future winners.
Willie Mullins' Faugheen, Anafilet and Champagne Fever all particularly impressed me at Punchestown, and are worth following closely as their seasons progress towards the Cheltenham Festival.
Friday 15th November 2013 - 2.05 Cheltenham Steel Plate and Sections Novices' Chase
(Class 2) (4yo+) 2m4½f Good
Taquin du Seuil Won
This race featured the fencing debut of Oscar Whisky who is the highest rated hurdler to go chasing for quite a while. However the chasing record of hurdlers older than 6 years old going chasing is not brilliant, and he was definitely opposable at long odds on, particularly with Nicky Henderson's stable being slightly below par,
The race was run at a farcical pace for the first half mile after The Cockney Mackem tried to refuse after leading going to the first fence. Barry Geraghty tried desperately to get a lead but Tony McCoy wasn't playing ball, and Oscar Whiskey ended up having to make his own running. However Taquin du Seuil travelled easily and jumped smoothly in behind, and picked him up coming round the home turn, what was impressive was that having been previously thought of a soft ground horse and possibly one that needed 3 miles, he had the pace to beat Oscar Whiskey in what basically turned into a sprint.
He is going to be very difficult to beat in any novice chases he turns up in and with course form he could be a real contender for the RSA at the festival come March, for which he is currently quoted at 16/1.
On a separate note the way the race unfolded would definitely not have suited The Romford Pele either and he is also one to keep on the right side...
Follow Taquin de Seuil for the rest of the season.
2.40 Cheltenham David Johnson Memorial Intermediate Handicap Hurdle
(Class 3) (0-140, 4yo+) 2m5f Good
As mentioned before, Nicky Henderson's string isn't on top form so Whisper's run here as a younger horse meeting older rivals carrying top weight was very creditable, particularly as this was his seasonal debut.
They went a decent clip as the favourite Top Gamble ran with choke slightly out but Whisper travelled really well and jumped in the main particularly fast and fluently. He was staying on when getting the second last wrong when he was down on his nose. Barry Geraghty let him gather himself and he was back in the mix coming to the last but the weight and lack of fitness edge just told and he finished third still staying on all the way to the line. Barry Geraghty gave him a really considerate ride here and never picked his whip up so should really come on for this. We may see him next up in another decent handicap when he should be cherry ripe.
Back Whisper on his next run.
Saturday 16th November 2013 - 3.00 Cheltenham Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Hurdle (Listed Race)
(Class 1) (4yo+) (3m1f110y) Good
I thought this was one of the best performances of the jump season to date. Salubrious who was the winner of the Martin Pipe here at last years festival was only just pipped in a head bobbing finish by Return Spring, conceding twenty pounds to his winning rival, and running over a distance probably more than half a mile further than his best trip.
What was also surprising was that his trainer Paul Nicholls said he was only running here as a confidence booster after having a fall schooling over fences. I would like to see him stay over hurdles and be given a break, perhaps coming back at Christmas or perhaps at Cheltenham's New Year meeting, perhaps over a slightly shorter trip.
Back Salubrious next time out if racing over hurdles and given a break of at least 4 weeks.