Ascot, Friday December 18th
Everglow, a small field assembled for this race and the favourite came out on top, but it was an uncompetitive event. He tracked the leaders and increased the pace when he jumped to the lead with 3 hurdles to go. Pressing on at the final bend you could see he was still inexperienced whilst out in front. Even though he won quite comfortably I feel he has plenty more to offer long term.
The best looking horse in the field was Fearless Fracas. I thought this 6yo was bursting with health. He seemed to jump a little to his left throughout the contest, which I put down to his inexperience, but as he came to make a challenge off the final bend he was easily brushed aside.
In The Detail, this gelding by Milan looked fine beforehand and raced prominently from the start. He was bang in contention jumping the third last, but soon back peddled once the pace increased. Nickelsonthedime who looks a chaser of the future, led the field at a slow pace, but as soon as he hit the third last it seemed to knock him out of his stride and he was a spent force.
A competitive field assembled for this Class 3 Handicap which saw the Venetia Williams Enzo D’Airy come out on top. He looked superb paddock side and the strong early pace played right in to his hands. As he swung in to the home straight he had 4 lengths to make up on the front runner, but soon cut him down to win going away. The handicapper will have his say and I am sure he will be competitive wherever he turns up next.
Editeur Du Gite looked well and his jockey decided to run the finish out of his opponents. He jumped well and tried to stretch his field from 4 fences out, but in the end he bumped into a more superior rival. His stable companion Ar Mest didn’t jump well, but was able to pick up the pieces in the closing stages.
Sir Valentine looked fine/well, but seemed to struggle when the pace increased with 4 fences to jump.
This race has got a decent roll of honour which includes Make A Stand, Monsignor, Medermit and Yanworth, and this year’s running probably saw the best novices assemble so far this season.
My Drogo who is a fantastic looking gelding, stepped up from his Newbury win to take this event in taking style. He made a few minor mistakes on the way round, but I like the way he hit the line strongly. The Sydney Banks Hurdle at Huntingdon in February is his next target and the extra 4 furlongs will definitely be to his advantage.
Llandinabo Lad comes here after winning his first two hurdles and was looking piping fit. He was up in the front throughout, but when the winner came to challenge he had nothing left to respond in the closing stages. Considering he was conceding 5lb to the winner I thought this was a cracking effort.
The chaser Soaring Glory looked fine/well and was placed just behind the leaders. He moved up to be second with 3 flights to jump, but lacked the pace to carry on his effort to the line.
The 4yo No Ordinary Joe was taking a mighty leap up in class considering he only won a bumper 40 days ago. You could see he was inexperienced at a number of flights, but overall this was a good starting point.
Shantou Express was accompanied by two handlers and looked as if he was eager to get on with things. He was a touch keen in front and probably did too much considering how bad the ground was. In the end he weakened dramatically in the home straight.
Nicky Henderson has started some good horses off in this race over the years, like The Proclamation, Remittance Man, Simonsig and Angels Breath, and this year’s winner Allart made a spectacular debut. Looking in tip-top condition this was a brave call by his trainer to pitch him in to a Grade 2 for his first start over fences. His jumping got better as the race developed, and when the pace quickened his jumping was quick and accurate, and I was impressed by his turn of foot coming to the last. He is clearly a high class recruit to chasing.
Fiddlerontheroof who came here on the back of three previous runs looked in grand order and he jumped and travelled well throughout the contest, but he couldn’t live with the winner approaching the last fence and was easily brushed aside. Bad ground clearly brings out the best in him and long term he will get further.
Kiltealy Briggs, this gelding by Fame And Glory looked in good nick and jumped well out in front, but once the pace increased he struggled from thereafter.
Pic D’Orhy looked well considering he had a tumble here last time out. His jockey gave him a good view of the fences by taking him wide, but was a spent force coming around the final bend.
Ascot, Saturday December 19th
Dashel Drasher looked fine and gave his two opponents a lesson in how to jump 17 fences clean and accurately. This will do his confidence some good and I can see him going forward from this.
Itchy Feet looked well, but the problem is he lacks size and scope to jump fences.
Caribean Boy looked well and I know he looked to struggle in the ground, but I just wonder if this race came too quickly after his victory at Newbury.
Paisley Park joins Baracouda, Big Bucks and Reve De Sivola who have all won this race at least twice. Looking a lot straighter in condition, this former champion stayer proved he is no back number by hitting his flat spot coming into the final bend, but once he got rolling he cleared the last to run on strongly and nail Thyme Hill right on the line. I suspect the Cleeve Hurdle will be next on his agenda. Thyme Hill looked full of himself in the paddock and was razor sharp. His jumping was spot-on from the word go and his jockey did nothing wrong, only for Paisley Park to beat him on the line. Considering he was not receiving weight on this occasion I thought this was a cracking effort.
Roksana looked in good order and probably ran the race of her life to finish third in such lofty company.
Younevercall looked grand and ran a respectable race in fourth. Third Wind and Portrush Ted both looked well.
Mister Malarky looked terrific paddock side and produced a taking performance. He led the field at a decent pace and never missed a beat at a single fence. Even when he was challenged at the second last he found for pressure when the last fence was omitted. The question is: can he be competitive off his new mark?…because Tizzard’s horses do not seem to run two races alike.
The Conditional looked in good nick and did nothing wrong. He moved up and looked a big threat, but he was unable to overhaul the winner. The problem is that he is not winning, but he is being pushed up a couple of pounds each time by the handicapper.
Regal Encore, this grand old campaigner belied his 12 years of age to run a cracker in third.
Other horses that looked well were Beware The Bear, Espoir De Guye who didn’t jump well and Quarenta.
A competitive field lined up for this Group 3 and I thought Buzz ran a remarkable race given he was raised 11lb for his previous victory here. Placed at the back he made up an enormous amount of ground to stay on strongly in the end.
The winner Not So Sleepy his best foot forward to take this prize for the second year in a row. He made all and was not challenged for the lead at any stage and in the end was hard to reel in come the winning post.
Lightly Squeeze looked fine and ran his best race to date. Up with the pace throughout he was ridden coming around the final bend, but responded all the way to the line.
Benson who looked well stepped up on his previous form to run well in fourth. Other horses that looked the part were Oakley who should improve for the experience, Harambe and Time Flies By.
Star performance of the meeting:
Paisley Park who proved today that he was back to his best by lifting this Grade 1. I thought fitness wise that he could still improve, so that will make him a major player for the Stayers crown next March.
Horse to note:
Major Robinson who was only having his third start of his life ran an eyecatching race behind the impressive Lecale’s Article at Newbury on Wednesday.