The top jumps horse racing just continues to deliver, after last weekend’s Hennessey Gold Cup and this weekend we a thrilling renewal of the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown and at Aintree we saw a return to racing over the Grand National fences.
Before looking at this week’s horses for your trackers here is my usual take on the weekend’s big races and performances from Sandown and Aintree.
Thrilling Finish to Tingle Creek
A fair few pundits have raised questions as to the solidity of the form for this years Tingle Creek but whatever the merits of their comments lets just celebrate as an exciting a chase as we will probably see all winter.
Just 3 ¼ lengths separated the first four home in this years race with the Willie Mullins trained Un De Sceaux taking the race by length despite making a couple of mistakes at the last two fences, without those slight errors he would probably have won with a bit more in hand that the final winning margin. As he gets older this former ‘tearaway’ seems to settle better in his races as he showed here and he should get further now at the highest level.
Second home was former Tingle Creek winner Sire de Grugy who built on his recent Ascot win with another great performance here. Indeed it looked like he might go on to win the race again when taking the lead from the eventual winner. Despite reaching the veteran stage the ten year old showed here that he was still capable of competing at this level especially when going right handed.
Gods Own couldn’t go the furious early pace but was staying on well after the last without ever looking like he would win the race. Still he is a credit to his trainer Tom George and can win races at the top level but probably needs a bit further these days.
The eyecatcher of the race and the Sandown card has to be Ar Mad who showed blistering early speed on his seasonal reappearance and combined with some great jumping he went clear of his field. A mistake at the 6th fence and mistakes at the next two fences put paid to his chance and you wouldn’t have been surprised to see the six year old fade away given his long absence but far from it the gelding rallied bravely and was another horse staying on well on the run in and he finished just 3 ¼ lengths behind the winner which was an excellent performance from the Gary Moore trained runner who was less experienced than those who finished just ahead of him. He could still be a contender for the Champion Chase, although after the race his trainer indicated he could be supplemented for the King George over Christmas, but he does have to prove he can go as well left handed as he does right handed at the very highest level.
Altior made it two from two over fences. Last years top novice hurdler was far too speedy for his four rivals in the Grade 1 Henry VIII Novice Chase and his six length win could probably have been doubled. The standout performance of the day for me and underlines how exciting a bunch of 2m chases we have this year. Most bookmakers made Altior a short priced favourite for next years Arkle at the Cheltenham Festival, ahead of the likes of Willie Mullins trained Min and the Henry De Bromhead Identity Thief. If all three turn up then the Arkle could be one of the races of next years Festival.
Many Clouds On Course for Another National Win?
Many Clouds the 2014 Grand National winner who hadn’t been seen since running poorly in this year’s race, returned from a wind operation with a bold jumping performance to take the Listed 3m 1f chase, a race that he had finished 2nd in last year. The Grand National is on the agenda again for the nine year old is still young enough to do a Red Rum and win the race again. He full deserves his position at the head of the ante post market at this stage of the season.
Sadly the well fancied Minella Rocco took a heavy fall at the last although he wouldn’t have won even if he had stood up. It would too early to dismiss him at this level as 3m 1f on a sharp track like Aintree wouldn’t really play to his strengths given he won the four mile chase at Cheltenham. If none the worse for this experience there will be other days Jonjo O’Neill trained six year old
It was great to see racing return over the Grand National fences on Saturday with the latest renewals of the Becher and Grand Sefton Chases. The latter race was won by the Paul Nicholls trained As De Mee jumped the National fences like a veteran. The Becher Chase provided Saturday’s second best finish with the David Pipe trained Vieux Lion Rouge getting up on the line to beat last years winner Highland Lodge by a short head. The runner up was bidding to be the first horse to win back to back Becher Chases and after the last it looked he would make history as he was clear of nearest pursuers but he idled on the run in and had history snatched from his grasp.
It’s most likely that the first four or five home in the Becher Chase will renew rivalry in the big one in April. Of the first five home, it would be Highland Lodge who I would take out of the race with the Grand National in mind. His jumping of the big fences and his prominent style of running make him a natural for the race for him. The ten year old failed to get into the race last year due to his rating. Let’s hope he can get into next year race and if he does he will give backers a good run for their money. If you can find any 50/1 about his chance it has to be worth a few pounds doesn’t it?
This Weeks Eyecatchers
Onto this week’s eyecatchers and I have two for your trackers this week but as ever I will be adding four more exclusively for Eyecatcher Pro Subscribers as well as ante post selection for Saturday’s Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham!
Friday December 2nd
Arbeo – Diane Grissell – The 10 year old was having his first run since April and this was an encouraging seasonal reappearance. The going would have been plenty quick enough for him he is 6 wins from 18 runs on heavy and soft ground and only 1 win from 12 runs on all other going. He was still in contention six out when making a mistake but he would probably have been in need of the run as 6 of his 7 career runs have come when running within 60 days of his last start. He has never won before December and if you look at his record in January to March he is 6 wins from 12 runs 8 places and 1 win from 18 runs 3 places.
Friday December 3rd
The Fresh Prince – Oliver Sherwood – The six year old like many of his trainers runners needed his seasonal reappearance at Stratford in October but he shaped that day like he had a future over fences. This was only his second start over the larger obstacles and like at Stratford he jumped really well and was still travelling well when falling four out. A winner over hurdles last season on soft ground his excellent jumping should ensure that he can win races in the sphere this winter.
All that’s left is to wish you a profitable weeks betting.