Racing commentator John Hunt gives you his views on issues in the sport.
Not in the best of moods as I sit down and tap away at this week’s masterpiece. Being pretty knackered never helps but then again, that's probably my fault. Four nights out this week are beginning to take their toll and the nippers aren't helping much either. On Saturday night, middle daughter drops a camp-bed against her new, full length bedroom mirror. Go to bed tired and emotional telling the missus that the kids don't deserve anything nice and to take their new Wii straight back to the shop. Mood still gloomy heading to Towcester on Sunday where I have a slight fall out with the welcoming parking attendant. He appears to want to have a chat with every car coming in, but I know where I am going and drive straight past. He's not happy. Funny how parking in a field is so complicated for some people!
Anyway, with all that off my chest, why the hell is Tom George not having a tilt at the Gold Cup with Nacarat? Well I know what the reasons are but surely with this strapping grey in such rude health, a rethink is deserved?
The reasons for not doing so are reasonable, he doesn't like going up and down the hills at Cheltenham and is also better going right handed. Fair enough, but wasn't there another bold jumping grey in the eighties who didn't particularly like Cheltenham, nor as it goes, the bottomless ground he raced on to gain his most famous victory in 1989.
OK, Nacarat is not in Desert Orchid's league but surely the general premise is a solid one. You don't necessarily need everything in your favour to have a tilt at a big race. The most important thing is having a horse in peak form and preferably improving too. Nacarat could not have been more impressive, winning here off 147, and if the handicapper puts him up 20lbs, connections could not complain.
So, bare with me, let’s assume he is now rated 167. Which puts him on a higher rating than Gold Cup outsiders Albertas Run and Barbers Shop. So give it a go. The view that he doesn't act around Cheltenham is based on two runs, only one of which came over fences. Bit early to be righting him off isn't it? As for not operating left handed, well he looked pretty impressive going that way around at Doncaster on his previous start didn't he? They won't give it a go judging by Tom George's post race interview on Channel Four, but if he were mine, I would be sure that my trainer changes his mind. How many chances do you get to win a Gold Cup?
After the excitement of last week’s football, it was a case of back to the day job for me this week with trips to Sandown, Kempton and Towcester.
At Sandown, Pepsyrock appeared, on the face of it, to win the 2 mile chase with great authority, the general consensus being that he is slowly finding his feet after a hitherto unspectacular journey from France. That may be the case but my angle with him is that he will be worth taking on next time, in the assumption that he will be walloped by the handicapper. Ten pounds minimum is what he'll get and for what? For toying with out of form horses Coach Lane and Warpath that's what. He will be short next time and should be opposed.
There was a fascinating clash between According To Dick and British debutant Royal Charm, who was heavily backed for the Paul Nicholls stable. According to Dick had been impressive and disappointing in equal measure on his final bumper run and first attempt over hurdles, when beaten badly at Exeter. This was much more like it. He jumped well and the uphill climb to the line saw his long, rolling stride to its best effect. He could well appear at Cheltenham in the Ballymore where he wouldn't be the worst outsider of the week. I am already fully committed to Karabak here but if there is evidence of any crazy prices knocking about for the Hobbs horse, I'll happily through a few quid his way.
Although not in the class of the two aforementioned novices, Wade Farm Billy is the horse to take out of the race. He deserves great credit for this effort. He forced the pace for such a long way and only very gradually faded up the hill. He has the pace to be fully effective over a shorter distance and his short term future looks good as he has form in the book on good ground too. He will get a handicap mark after his next start but, provided it comes in fairly moderate company, I would not be surprised if he goes in next time out. Two miles on good ground; he'd be a bet for me.
Other Sandown runners deserving of a mention include Cornas who ran such a solid race when touched off by Gauvain in the feature chase. He is short on experience over fences but clearly has plenty of ability judged on this effort. In the handicap hurdle, South O'The Border and especially Victoria's Groom were undone by the trip of two and a half miles, both running well until stamina gave way. Again, back at two miles in similar company, both are worth following.
The bumper was run at a really steady pace and when the leaders quickened, those who were ridden off the pace were soon in trouble. So, take a bow Volador, for being able to get so close to the principles having been set such a tough task.
At Kempton on Saturday, Nacarat aside, I found myself noting more horses to lay in the future than back which surprised me as this is usually a solid day for the formbook. I didn't like Thundering Star throughout the handicap hurdle that opened the card; Ruby Walsh never looked relaxed on him for a second. To get so close was a good effort given what went before but even so, it struck me that his heart wasn't really in it and I'll be against him next time out.
The Dovecote form looks really uncertain as Dee Ee Williams had to have run well below his best. It was a messy race and I don’t think the race will prove reliable.
Another to lay in the future is Pop Ahead who, like Thundering Star, may well be a short price next time as he ran well on the face of it to finish a reasonable 3rd to Le Burf in the handicap chase. He never looked comfortable and made mistake after mistake. It was only McCoy's skill that got him into contention turning for home. To be honest, he looks a likely faller next time if he reproduces this slapdash run.
At Towcester, Elsies Pride looked, not for the first time, fainthearted in the handicap hurdle and even though her yard remain in great nick, she has to be opposed as there is something not quite right with that horse, either physically or between the ears!!
In that same race, Go Harvey Go travelled really well for a long way and it’s interesting that Richard Phillips' yard are in slightly better form now; Mr Aitch, Giovanna and Phardessa have all performed well for the stable of late. Maybe Go Harvey Go can nick a race at a more conventional track before long. In the same race, Ayemdee was sent off favourite but finished plum last. He is better than that and again, away from Towcester and maybe dropping back in trip too, he is worth a small bet now he is showing some signs of getting his act together.
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