The Irish Road to Cheltenham – December 3rd, 2013, by Tony Keenan
The highest rated horse to run in Ireland in the past fortnight was Jezki and he’s also the one shortest in the betting for Cheltenham though he was pushed out by some layers after his win in the Hatton’s Grace.
That was a surprise as his victory was hard to crib; the race was run at a strong pace set by Diakali, a gallop that would have suited the proven stayers in the line-up much more than Jezki, yet he travelled like a really good horse, always going best, and didn’t get a hard time in the finish, one crack of the whip at most, unlike the runner-up Zaidpour who had the kitchen sink thrown at him.
The opposition wasn’t great and his jumping needs improving but his form from the Supreme worked out again over the weekend with My Tent Or Yours and odds of 10/1 for the Tuesday feature appeal, nothing he has done this season having dented his claims. Of the others, Rule The World might be one to swerve at the moment as he was a bad fourth and has had his problems.
One of the more interesting developments among the Willie Mullins/Ruby Walsh horses this season has been the number of them being given positive rides, particularly over hurdles; of the twelve horses Ruby has ridden for Mullins over the smaller obstacles in the last fourteen days, seven were up with or not far off the pace, which is a surprise given the jockey has made his name as hold-up rider.
There is nothing wrong with this of course as if you’re on the best horse, which Ruby so often is, it makes sense to set your own gallop as long as the horse doesn’t need to be dropped out.
A corollary of this however has been some of the Mullins’ second and third strings being given quite negative rides, an almost Ballydoyle-type approach where first choice is being ridden to win the race while the others are getting an education. Noble Inn was an extreme example of this in Analifet race at Fairyhouse on Sunday, dropped out though not helped by some shoddy jumping, the ground he made up from the third last was striking and is one to keep on side for all that the winner has had his measure twice now.
Artic Fire too caught the eye in the Royal Bond though perhaps he needs a hold-up ride (keen sort, wears a hood); it’s possible he was making up cheap late gains in the finish but they certainly didn’t look to go too hard and there’s a chance he was simply the best horse in the race. His previous form suggested he could be anything and met trouble here too.
The Tullow Tank was quite an impressive winner of that race and won’t mind further; it is too early to read anything into his trainer’s comments about him preferring going right-handed.
Don Cossack’s win in the Drinmore was confusing. Here was a horse that travelled like a two and a half miler over further last time yet when dropped in trip he came off the bridle early and if anything went like a three miler. Answers on a postcard. Certainly there was nothing wrong with his attitude though he’s going to be short wherever he runs and wasn’t beating stars here; one horse the race does reflect well on is Morning Assembly who beat him last time.
Carlingford Lough is going to be better over further, off it early and stayed on well, while Road To Riches may like a drop in trip though it is a concern the wheels fell off with him last year. Sizing Rio travelled best bar Road To Riches but found nothing; his trainer wasn’t overly keen on running him in the lead-up to the race and this ground was quick enough while Art Of Logistics isn’t much better than this.
Apache Stronghold proved me wrong and in some style in the Monksfield; in a deep field, he was always going like the winner and he beat the right horses in Azorian and Carriganog. His jumping was by turns super-slick and awkward but there was still a lot to like about this run, even allowing for the fact that his motionless jockey may not have been holding on to quite so much as it appeared.
In the other Navan novice races, Moyle Park impressed on his hurdling debut; he wouldn’t want much further than two miles judging on run-style (keen sort) though his breeding might suggest otherwise. He looks the pick of the Mullins’ novices seen thus far. Speaking of Mullins/Ricci horses, Ballycasey went some way to delivering on the lofty reputation in landing his chase debut; he was helped by the leaders going too fast but is sure to be better over further and his jumping was plenty good enough.
From the same race, Ned Buntline is worth opposing, he found less than nothing when asked for his effort.
Away from the obvious races, Nearly Nama’D went like a well-treated horse in the Proudstown Handicap Hurdle despite only finishing sixth. Before the race, stamina looked an issue and so it proved and strikingly so. He went much the best into the dip but the 2m7f found him out in the finish but there are surely races to be won with him back at two and half miles or even shorter.
Tiger Trek looked of little consequence on three starts prior to Gowran on November 23rd but his second in the novice hurdle was a cracker; a slow pace may mean the form is false but he looked as inconvenienced as any by that as he met trouble between the second last and the last and a maiden hurdle should be a formality on this evidence.