Newbury, Friday November 27th
This race was formally known as the Speen Novices' Hurdle and has been won by some good horses over the years, but this year’s running was a bit of a farce. They went no pace and the majority of the field were not seen at their best. The third placed horse Sir Sholokhov is a chaser of the future and was in need of the run. Tracking the pedestrian pace he made a few errors on the way round, but I thought this was a satisfactory debut.
My Drogo ran at Cheltenham last month looked well and probably settled the best. He made a serious error at the fourth last, but overall he had enough to overhaul the winner in the end. I am sure he will be seen in better effect in a stronger run race.
The 200-1 outsider Saggazza took advantage by the way the race unfolded to finish an honourable second.
Flinteur Sacre looked well, but was accompanied by two handlers. The moment the race got underway he took a keen hold, but his jumping was not up to the task. It is hard to judge him on this performance given how the race developed.
Kanukankan looked fine, but was way too keen in the race and consequently his jumping was not up to scratch. He looked green at a number of flights so hopefully he would have learnt from this.
Bravemansgame, this good looking gelding dominated the paddock and put in a faultless round of jumping to win impressively. I am not sure how strong a race this was, but he is clearly a horse with a lot of potential. We will find out how good he is when he comes back here next month for the Challow Hurdle.
Es Perfecto, this chestnut gelding bounced back from a fall last time out to fill the runner up spot. Placed behind the leaders he crept in to contention, but in a twinkle of an eye the favourite showed him a clean pair of heels.
Bothwell Bridge, this fine looking chaser looked in good order, but he took a good hold out in front. As he came around the final bend you knew he would pay for his early exertions and he folded after jumping the second last.
Real Stone, who will make a lovely chaser in time, ran an adequate race considering he looked well, but was still carrying some condition.
As per normal a small field assembled for this event and the winner Caribean Boy used his experience to good effect to beat his two rivals without breaking sweat. His jumping was never threatened and he always had matters under control. He is now ineligible to run in novices' chases so his next target could be the Silviniaco Conti Chase at Kempton in January.
Fiddlerontheroof looked in tip top order and he jumped and travelled well, but as soon as the pace quickened he seemed to struggle. Maybe the ground was quicker than ideal. Getaway Trump who comes here on the back of two victories this season found the step up in grade too big a gap to fill and he struggled from some way out.
The best stayers around assembled for this Grade 2 event which saw Thyme Hill strike on his first start for the season. He looked 100% fit and was eager to get on with his job. He jumped and travelled with a fair amount of ease. Once he cleared the last I liked the way he galloped strongly through the line. I am sure he will take high rank in this division and his next target will be the Long Walk at Ascot. Three horses in recent times have completed the double. They were Big Buck's, Unowhatimeaharry and Paisley Park.
Last year’s winner Paisley Park returned to the track looking big and well which I am not surprised about considering the last time we saw him he had a fibrillating heart. I thought overall this was a satisfactory comeback and I wouldn’t write him off on the back of this performance.
Mcfabulous looked in terrific shape and was the standout paddock side. He travelled well behind the principles and when he came through he looked a big player, but in the end his stride began to shorten and he failed through lack of stamina.
Summerville Boy looked grand and came from off the pace to stay on to gain fourth position. Honest Vic looked the part, but was a touch too keen stepping up in grade. He is still worth another chance in this grade.
Newbury, Saturday November 28th
Paul Nicholls recorded his tenth victory in this event courtesy of Next Destination. Overall I do not think this was a strong renewal when you compare it to some of the previous winners, Native River, Thistlecrack and Santini to name but three. Next Generation looked the pick of the field and his jumping was smooth.
He moved to the front with the minimum of effort, but had to be punched out to lift this prize. I am sure he will have tougher assignments ahead and his trainer is favouring to go to Ascot for the Reynoldstown.
One For The Team, this not overly big 6yo looked very fit and made a couple of minor errors on the way round, but in the end was held by the winner.
Kalooki looked well and jumped brilliantly for the first circuit, but once he made a mistake 6 from home he made a number of errors over the remainder of the fences.
Hold The Note looked fine and may appreciate going back in trip.
Acey Milan looked in top gear from the moment the race started. He clearly needs softer ground.
Champagne Platinum looked fine, but over raced from flag fall. He was still taking a tug coming around the final bend and I thought he did remarkably well to fill third position. Hopefully this will have taken the freshness out of him and there should be more races to be won with him.
Flash The Steel looked in tremendous nick and was held off the pace. You could see from some way out he was still full of running and a good jump at the last sealed the deal.
Amour De Nuit looked in good order and may have appreciated a stronger pace because when the pace quickened he was caught flat footed and he was making up ground towards the winning line. Jacamar came from way off the pace to pick up the pieces to finish in fourth.
Rathhill came from some way off the pace and made little impression and the mistake at the last sealed his fate.
Back in the day this race used to be known as the Gerry Feilden Hurdle and it supplied this year’s Champion Hurdle winner Epatante, but I doubt this years’ renewal won by Floressa will hit such heights.
This daughter of Poliglote looked tremendous paddock side and showed her rivals how to jump 8 flights of hurdles at speed. I suspect the trainer will not have that many options left so I suspect she will go to Kempton to contest the Christmas hurdle.
The Pink’n ran the race of his life to claim the runner up spot.
Milkwood looked fine and was slightly unlucky because his jockey had to take evasive action when Harry Cobden fell in front of him.
The 4yo Botox Has looked great and ran a respectable race off top weight. He came under pressure swinging off the final bend, but to his credit he kept battling all the way to the line.
Marie’s Rock looked full of herself and was a little headstrong to start with. Her jumping was good, but as she came to the second last she cocked her head and it looked as if she was either trying to run out or she was short of room.
This was not the classiest of renewals, but it was mighty competitive. The bottom weight Cloth Cap put in a superb round of jumping and his jump at the fourth last almost took my breath away. As he approached the second last you could see this 8yo had matters under control and he bolted clear to win by 10 lengths. I suspect things will be a lot harder once he is reassessed, but I presume his long term aim will be to go to the Grand National as long as he gets his rating high enough.
Aye Right ran the race of his life to finish in second place and after this performance shows that he is a horse on the up. The Conditional looked the part and when he moved in to contention coming to the third last I thought he was going to be a major player, but in a couple of strides the winner had gone. This was a good start to his season and hopefully he can build on this.
Beware The Bear who looked well picked up the pieces late on.
Black Op looked in top order, but he failed to get the trip and weakened dramatically in the closing stages.
Vinndication looked great, but if he is to fulfil his potential he has to get his jumping right and maybe going back to a right handed track may see him return to his best.
Star performance of the week:
Thyme Hillcame back with a bang to beat a very good field in the Grade 2 Long Distance Hurdle. He has proven after this performance that he could be the best staying hurdler this side of the Irish Sea.
Horse to note:
Defi Sacre was unlucky when unseating his jockey with three fences to jump. He improved throughout last season and the way he performed I do not think he has reached his ceiling just yet.