ON THE RADAR
John Gosden has given Cashla Bay a couple of entries this Saturday, 29 October - over six furlongs at Chelmsford and over seven at Newmarket - and, if she contests the former option, I rate this daughter of Fastnet Rock a good bet. Gosden's two-year-old filly was recommended to Talking Horses readers last week, after she had finished an encouraging three-quarter-length second on her Haydock debut on 14 October and, judged on her performance then, she has enough ability to beat this weekend's rivals.
I was delighted to see Cracksman land a one-mile two-year-old maiden at Newmarket on 19 October, thereby justifying his inclusion in the gallops section of Talking Horses the previous week, and I rate him sufficiently highly to believe he can notch conditions race successes next season. It seems likely, too, that Wild Tempest, beaten a length and a quarter into second in that HQ contest, will soon break his duck. He hung in the closing stages, but that was surely due only to inexperience on his first start.
The seven-furlong maiden for colts and geldings at that same fixture looked a decent event and it will be no surprise if some smart performers emerge from among the first-time-out starters beaten behind the experienced winner, Cape Byron. Runner-up Manchego, for example, looked a guaranteed future scorer, chasing the pace from the outset and plugging on gamely to lose out by two and a half lengths. By Lope de Vega and related to useful middle-distance horses, he ought to stay longer trips next term.
As De Mee did not have to match his official rating of 139 in order to take the two-mile-three-furlong beginners' chase at Fontwell on 19 October, but the ease of his success indicated he will collect again over fences before too long. Paul Nicholls's six-year-old featured in several hot events last winter and regularly found one or two too strong for him. Now he has had his sights lowered a little, however, he might well grow in confidence and victory in novice grade under a penalty should not be beyond him.
Connections must have been pleased with Book Direct when this five-year-old made his debut for the Philip Hobbs yard in a novices' hurdle over an extended two and a quarter miles at Newton Abbot the following afternoon. The son of Kayf Tara, who took third on his only previous outing in a three-mile point-to-point in Ireland, finished second behind odds-on shot Capeland, battling on powerfully in the closing stages. From a mare by Sinndar, Book Direct is bred to appreciate a much stiffer stamina test.
Longer distances almost certainly beckon for Baron Alco, following his first public sighting of fences in a two-mile Cheltenham novices' chase on 21 October. The Gary Moore-trained five-year-old filled third behind Maracudja (he was beaten less than two lengths by that previous chase scorer) and might well have finished a little closer but for a slight mistake at the final obstacle. Overall his jumping was sound and this two-mile-five-furlong handicap hurdle winner should soon score in his new discipline.
Identity Thief was massively impressive on his first outing over fences, landing a two-mile beginners' contest at Punchestown by 14 lengths the following day, and his trainer, Henry de Bromhead, must be relishing the prospect of this powerful five-year-old son of Kayf Tara tackling Graded events. Decent over hurdles, being officially rated 159 in that sphere, Identity Thief negotiated Punchestown's fences smoothly, comfortably beating fair yardstick O Ceallaigh, and looks well worth following this winter.
DIGGING THE DIRT
Richard Hannon may have a larger than normal team of two-year-olds to run at all-weather tracks this autumn/winter and, if he does, Sufi seems the ideal type to register a success for him. Hannon's string underperformed for much of the summer, but a revival in his stable's fortunes has occurred in the past few weeks and Sufi, second in a one-mile maiden at Chelmsford on 20 October, clearly has the ability to break his duck. By Pivotal out of mare by Galileo, he is bred to handle at least a mile and a quarter.
NOTED ON THE GALLOPS
William Haggas should soon be giving a two-year old colt named Elyaasaat his first start and this big, powerful son of Frankel does enough at home to suggest he will land at least a maiden. Haggas's colt certainly has the right kind of pedigree to succeed, since he is out of Lahudood, a Singspiel mare who took the 2007 edition of the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mares Turf, staged over a mile and three furlongs.
Elyaasaat is owned by Hamdan Al Maktoum, as is the John Gosden-trained Loujain, another juvenile colt showing up sufficiently well at exercise for connections to be hopeful about his future. Gosden's charge is by Dubawi and, although his dam failed to register a racecourse success, she is regally bred, being a daughter of Storm Cat and related to the Guineas, Derby and Eclipse Stakes winner Nashwan
STATS THE WAY TO DO IT
Charlie Hall Chase (Wetherby, Saturday, 29 October)
Punters supporting the favourite in Wetherby's Charlie Hall Chase, the 2016 renewal of which is run this Saturday, 29 October, have shown a profit (albeit modest) over the past decade.
Three outright market-leaders - State Of Play (5-2 in 2008), Silviniaco Conti (11-10 in 2012) and Cue Card (11-4 in 2015) - have won the Bet365-sponsored event within that period.
No joint-favourite has taken the three-mile contest in the same timeframe - the last of those to score was See More Business (at 11-4) in 1999 - while two second-bests in the betting - Ollie Magern (11-4 in 2007) and Harry Topper (5-2 in 2013) - have collected in the last ten seasons.
Ballybough Rasher (at 40-1 in 2003) was the last Charlie Hall winner to start at double-figure odds.
Restricting bets to runners proven at the big-race distance appears to be a wise strategy, since seven of the last ten successful candidates had previously registered a victory over at least three miles.
Two of those - Ollie Magern and Weird Al (2011) - had notched an earlier success at Wetherby.
Contestants aged eight and nine have the joint-best strike-rate within the period under scrutiny, each scoring four times, the former via Our Vic (2006), State Of Play, Deep Purple and Weird Al, the latter courtesy of Ollie Magern, Nacarat (2010), Menorah (2014) and Cue Card.
Six-year-olds have taken the other two runnings within my chosen timeframe, thanks to Silviniaco Conti and Harry Topper.
Five-year-olds are eligible, as are horses aged ten and over, of course, but none of those has added their name to the roll of honour in period covering 2006 to the present.
Nobody should be deterred if their fancy is making his/her seasonal reappearance, as nine of the last ten winners - Cue Card was the exception - lined up without a previous run in the relevant campaign.
Four of those victories - the quartet registered by Our Vic, Deep Purple, Silviniaco Conti and Menorah - came after a last-time-out win, albeit achieved during the season before.
A below-par latest effort does not seem an insurmountable problem, though, because Ollie Magern, State Of Play, Weird Al and Harry Topper had all failed to make the first four on their most recent start before landing the Charlie Hall.
High-profile stables have fared well in the Wetherby contest during the period under discussion.
Nigel Twiston-Davies (with Ollie Magern), David Pipe (Our Vic), Evan Williams (State Of Play and Deep Purple), Donald McCain (Weird Al), Paul Nicholls (Silviniaco Conti), Philip Hobbs (Menorah) and Colin Tizzard (Cue Card) have all lifted the trophy within the last ten years.
BIG RACE FOCUS
Rivet was a decisive winner of Doncaster's Group One Racing Post Trophy on 22 October, scoring by a length and three-quarters, but I cannot recommend him as a potential 2017 Classic hero.
William Haggas's colt has served Talking Horses well this season, registering three victories since his initial inclusion back in July, and his Town Moor success fully justified my faith in him.
However, his Racing Post Trophy performance warranted a rating of just 106 on my scale and that falls a good way short of the 116-120 likely to be needed to land a 2000 Guineas or Derby.
No two-year-old colt this term has impressed me sufficiently, in fact, to have made me contemplate an ante-post Classic bet and, in my opinion, readers ought to tread carefully at this stage.
We seem to be in a somewhat similar situation to that which prevailed in late 2015, with Air Force Blue topping my ratings with a mark shy of what is usually required at Newmarket or Epsom.
That Aidan O'Brien-trained betting-market 'hot-pot' proved desperately disappointing at HQ - and afterwards - and it will come as no great surprise to me if history repeats itself next spring.
Leading European two-year-old colts of 2016
(ranked in order of peak ratings achieved by 25/11)
|1)||Caravaggio||A O'Brien (Ireland)||113|
|2=)||Churchill||A O'Brien (Ireland)||112|
|2=)||The Last Lion||M Johnston (GB)||112|
|4=)||Blue Point||C Appleby (GB)||110|
|4=)||National Defense||C Head-Maarek (France)||110|
|6)||Mehmas||R Hannon (GB)||109|
|7)||Lancaster Bomber||A O'Brien (Ireland)||107|
|8=)||Rivet||W Haggas (GB)||106|
|8=)||Tis Marvellous||C Cox (GB)||106|
|10=)||Boynton||C Appleby (GB)||105|
|10=)||Intelligence Cross||A O'Brien (Ireland)||105|
|10=)||Thunder Snow||S bin Suroor (GB)||105|