THEATRE SET FOR A REPEAT PERFORMANCE
I’m rather hoping that history repeats itself at Ascot on Saturday because a year ago it produced a very good day for Nicky Henderson and I.
We took some quality horses there and came away with four winners and although that sets the bar very high, there’s no doubt that Nicky has prepared some class horses this time.
The big one of the day is RIVERSIDE THEATRE (3.00) going for back to back wins in the Betfair Ascot Chase – the only problem is that he was injured after last year and this is his first run back.
He was as impressive that day as he ever has been and strode away from Gauvain to win by ten lengths and despite the year off I’m sure he’s the one they’ve all got to beat.
The Seven Barrows team have got him right back and he worked really well when we took him to work with Burton Port round the Lambourn Bowl recently.
There’s no knowing how good Kauto Stone is judged on just his one run in Britain and a win in Ireland but he looked very smart in France and is bred to be top-class. Having said that, he will need to be because my lad goes very well fresh.
I start with a very live chance in the two mile three novices, KEYS (1.15), who has plenty of potential having been one of the better bumper horses of last season when he was unbeaten in three before winning on the flat.
There are two keys to Keys winning. The first is the better ground because it was too soft for him when he was beaten by Cinders And Ashes at Aintree early December.
Also, this move up to nearly two and a half miles is just what he needs because although he has pace, he stays well, too.
BOBS WORTH (1.50) begins his prep for the Rsa Chase at the Festival next month in the Reynoldstown Chase and I’m hopeful of a good performance.
It’s his first run since he was beaten for the first time over obstacles at Kempton on Boxing Day when he was third to Grands Crus, form that leaves him with three lengths to find on Silviniaco Conti.
I’ll always have a soft spot for Bobs as I had him as a young horse and I’m hoping that the wind op he had after Kempton has helped him. I’m sure he’ll acquit himself well but all roads lead to Cheltenham next month.
We finish with a couple of exciting young horses, certainly ones that you should keep an eye on for the future.
First up is UNE ARTISTE (4.10), a four-year-old filly who takes on older horses in the two mile novice hurdle.
She won two bumpers then a hurdle at Pau last month before joining Nicky and the vibes are very encouraging.
She gets all the allowances for age and sex when means I’ll be having a sweat before racing but I’m sure it will be worthwhile.
Time’s running out for the Triumph Hurdle but it’s possible she could book her place here.
My last ride is RIVER MAIGUE (4.45) in the bumper and I am very excited about him.
He’s well-connected and won his only bumper very impressively for Michael Hourigan. The whole of Ireland was talking about him and there’s no doubt he’s exciting.
But there are some equally well-regarded horses here like Atlantic Roller plus some good winners so it’s going to tell us a lot.
Whatever happens, he’s one to follow.
SPRINTER SACRE: I'VE NEVER RIDDEN ANYTHING LIKE THIS
As I was easing down crossing the line at Newbury on SPRINTER SACRE, a thought flashed across my mind – “Carlsberg don’t do two mile chasers, but if they did...”
That’s how high I rate this horse – call him what you like, the business, the real deal, all I know is that he’s special and I’ve never ridden one like him.
Moscow Flyer was brilliant but he’d doss in front and would beat a bad horse by two lengths the same as a good one. You’d call him unassuming in human terms but this horse is flamboyant.
Nine times out of ten Moscow was a good jumper, but Sprinter Sacre is fast, I’ve never ridden a horse that can get from one side of a fence to the other like he does. In fairness to him, he was clever at a couple, which a horse needs to be at Cheltenham – concentrate on the job.
He was breathtaking alright and he’s the sort of horse that jockeys wait for their whole career.
You know, the only time he dropped the bit was over the last and won as he liked and still did it in a course record time.
He just needs wrapping up in cotton wool and looking after as he's still got so much potential.
Talking of cotton wool, that was a great comeback by BURTON PORT in the Denman Chase. He confirmed everything I thought after his good work a few weeks back and made Long Run go all the way to the line.
He’s third favourite for the Gold Cup now and I’d like to think the run would have bought him on a good bit.
It’s now a matter for the mechanics at Seven Barrows to keep the wheels in place for Cheltenham.
It was a very helpful move to give us the bumpers for jumpers meeting at Kempton eight days ago and there’s no question it was a very worthwhile project.
TETLAMI showed that he still has plenty of pace from the flat and just did what he had to do in his own time. He’d probably still win flat races.
GLORIUS TWELFTH finished fourth, beaten about four lengths but would have been suited by a better gallop.
OSCAR WHISKY just breezed round and was very uncomplicated as you’d expect but the day out would have done him good. Next stop Cheltenham, the ideal combination of pace and stamina.
ASAID did well to finish fourth for John Ferguson in the grade one Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown on Sunday because he frightened himself at the first three hurdles and was nearly last going to two out and in the circumstances did well to finish fourth to Hisaabaat. He gave me the impression he’d be better over two and a half miles.
CAPTAIN CONAN just didn’t turn up on the day in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle later in the afternoon – he didn’t run up to scratch. Having said that, it rode a good race and the ground was dead and it was hard work. It was interesting that the two five-year-olds, Conan and Cash And Go, finished at the rear.
ROBERTO GOLDBACK ran a solid second to Quel Esprit in the Hennessy Gold Cup and there was a moment turning in that I thought I might have the winner but my lad just cleared his pipes out and that was it. He’d be suited by better ground and he’d be a chance of turning the tables come the Punchestown Festival.
LYVIUS was one of three winners Nicky Henderson sent up to Kelso on Wednesday and although he was workmanlike winning the novice hurdle he will have learned a lot for that. He gave himself a fright having over-jumped the first and was careful at the next two and lacked confidence. I’d say he certainly has an engine to win like he did having given ground away.
BELLVANO won as he should have done but as we’ve seen before, you never quite know what you are going to get.
SIMONSIG is a horse that I like a lot and he pleased me winning the Morebattle Hurdle the way he did over two and a quarter. Has a lot of class and is exciting to say the least. The reason I mentioned going over two five for the Neptune at Cheltenham is to give him a bit more time at his hurdles.