Declan Rix

On the back of Saturday's Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle success by Fiddlerontheroof, Declan Rix assesses the race and some of the collateral form lines affected.

  • Sunday 05 January
  • Blog
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FIDDLER’S CLASSY TOLWORTH VICTORY SHEDS SOME LIGHT ON NOVICE HURDLING PICTURE

Fiddlerontheroof’s six-length victory in the Grade 1 Unibet Tolworth Novices' Hurdle at Sandown helped shed light on numerous other horses – in various divisions - on Saturday.

Radiating form lines from the Tolworth Hurdle will no doubt prove key heading into the spring festivals, but before touching on those, Fiddlerontheroof’s classy weekend success should be looked at first.

In soft ground, Colin Tizzard’s inmate powered through the mud late, to land a pretty comfortable success from Irish raiding mare, Jeremys Flame. While some seem to not value the race, I rate it genuine top-class novice hurdling form and on similar terrain, the winner would be a match for any British or Irish-trained novice, especially at a track like Sandown.

Fiddlerontheroof wins the Tolworth Hurdle
Fiddlerontheroof (left) wings the last under Robbie Power

A son of Stowaway, Fiddlerontheroof is quite simply getting better and better, no doubt in part to the six-year-old strengthening up as the weeks go by. For a novice hurdler, he jumps well, although there are tiny signs of him favouring his right. It’s nothing to worry about, just something to note, especially in the context of his last three starts coming at clockwise venues.  

Sandown is clearly a track Fiddlerontheroof thrives at based on his last two victories, but it may well not just be the idiosyncrasies of the course, but the ground that has helped him progress. Heavy and soft going clearly hold no fears for the gelding. Now he has reached such a good level of form – I’ve got him running to 149P (this could even underrate him a touch) – it will be interesting to see how he adapts on likely quicker ground coming into the spring.

On what we’ve seen so far this season – and again on Saturday – running over the minimum trip on good to soft really could see Robbie Power’s mount taken off his feet, especially at a much sharper track. In a strong-run Tolworth on taxing going, Fiddlerontheroof had the revs kept up having jumped three out, which is still a long way home at Sandown.

Such is his ability however, even when racing slightly out of his comfort zone in the early and/or mid parts of a race, Fiddlerontheroof still has reserves in the latter parts of a contest. I was really taken with how he ran up the stiff Sandown climb off a good gallop and went through the line. Simply put; he is classy, relentless and has a big engine.

Ground will obviously dictate what race he runs in at the Cheltenham Festival, but for me, nearing “heavy” is the only description I would consider a Supreme Novices’ Hurdle tilt on. Of course, we are still ages off the Cheltenham Festival, and don’t know likely fields, but on the evidence seen so far, the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle looks the best race to suit him, as an individual.

It’s hard to see the mare Jeremys Flame running against the boys with options at The Festival for the fairer sex these days, but she shouldn’t be used as a stick to beat this form with, not in any shape or form. Gavin Gromwell’s inmate is a classy and progressive mare now she is starting to settle in her races and probably posted a career best here.

The daughter of Jeremy is officially rated 136, a mark she is well up to and can even surpass in time and there can be no doubt that she has run right up to her best. The six-year-old went through the race in great order and did everything you’d like to see; jumped well, travelled superbly and finished out her race. Her running gives the form a solid look and it took a pretty big performance from the winner to give her 7lb and a six-length beating.

COLLATERAL FORM LINES

Her run, reflecting on the previously mentioned collateral form lines, gave a solid boost to her previous Newbury conqueror Floressa. Indeed, that form was already given a lesser upgrade on the same Sandown card as Silver Forever won the Listed Unibet Mares’ Hurdle in good style. This trio of mares filled the first three home at Newbury on November 30th in a Listed Mares’ Hurdle and remain likable, classy types for the division.

Jeremys Flame’s good recent form has also strengthened what Daylight Katie did at Down Royal back on November 1st and she could be a forgotten horse in the division. Gordon Elliott’s inmate hasn’t run since, which is a worry, but she is worth keeping in mind.

We’ve seen a bit more of Thyme Hill since he clashed with Fiddlerontheroof back at Chepstow on October 11th, another horse whose form has a solid look to it on the back of this. OK, when they clashed last, Thyme Hill was nicely on top, but there could be a genuine case to now say Fiddlerontheroof has at least reached a similar level of ability or even improved passed the recent Grade 1 Challow Novices' Hurdle winner, for all there was hardly ever masses between them.

Edwardstone is another to come out with a sounder looking profile on the back of the Tolworth, having beaten Fiddlerontheroof at Wincanton on November 9th. Alan King’s horse has since gone on to win himself at Aintree and while what Fiddlerontheroof has gone on to do since couldn’t be in anyway deemed a negative, it’s probably worth remembering Edwardstone likely had much more favourable conditions (goodish ground, on a sharp track over 1m7½f) when they clashed.

Declan Rix
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