Ascot, Friday November 20th
There has only been three runnings of this event and Nicky Henderson has supplied all the winners.
Chantry House turned up here looking in tip top shape. His jumping improved throughout the contest and he was at his most impressive when the pace quickened where he really let fly at the last four fences. I can see this fella stepping up in trip further down the line, but the next obvious target is to come back here for the Noel Novices' Chase just before Christmas.
Up The Straight looked fine and made a number of minor mistakes on the way round, but in the end he was no match for the winner from some way out.
Pic D’Orhy looked in tip top shape and measured his fences with aplomb. He was still going well when he fell three out. He didn’t really deserve to fall and hopefully he will make amends.
The chaser Danny Kirwan made a successful second start over hurdles by taking this event in his stride. He made all and was never really put under any pressure. The way he jumped the hurdles suggests he has the make and shape to jump fences.
Time Flies By looked well in himself, but was short of peak fitness and the fact he took a strong hold during the race compromised his chances. He came with a strong challenge off the final bend, but he looked to be fighting a losing battle once he cleared the second last. I see no reason why he shouldn’t take a step forward.
Royal Pretender looked well and sat off the pace. As he was making slight headway he made a mistake three out and soon came off the bridle.
The Edgar Wallace looked in fabulous order and was a little headstrong to begin with. He jumped right at a number of flights, but the way he performed suggests he may require a step up in trip.
Métier was the pick of the paddock and duly dispatched his rivals with the minimum of fuss. He seemed to get lower and quicker over the last four flights of hurdles which saw his rivals unable to match. I am not sure if he needs to dominate, but there simply wasn’t anything good enough in this race to test him.
Tile Tapper who is a big type looked fine and ran a respectable race given that he was fighting a losing battle from some way out.
The top weight Gipsy De Choisel looked fit, but was inexperienced at a number of flights. He tried to make a race of it off the final bend, but he was unable to close the winner down.
Amarillo Sky looks a nice type and ran well to a point having been a little headstrong to start with.
The nicest long term prospect in the race was Nimix De Juilley who is unfurnished and needed the run.
Ascot, Saturday November 21st
Shang Tang, this Shantou gelding was a real handful walking around the parade ring and he got rid of his jockey at least twice on the horse walk. In the end they had to mount the jockey on the track. Once the race was underway he behaved himself and tracked the leaders and measured the hurdles well. As he swung off the home straight he found a turn of foot which his other rivals could not live with.
The 6yo Southfield Harvest is a three mile chaser of the future. Looking fine beforehand his jockey decided to dictate matters from the front, but he didn’t have any gears come the closing stages.
Exod’Ela, this gelding by Saddler Maker looked fine beforehand and was in contention until the pace quickened turning for the home straight. He was simply left behind.
Greenrock Abbey looked fit and jumped adequately until he fell two out. I didn’t think he was beaten at the time and he was still bang in contention. Hopefully this would not have dented his confidence going forward.
In its younger days this race was called the H &T Walker Gold Cup which was a limited handicap and Kim Bailey won it in 1991 with a horse called Kings Fountain and this year’s winner Imperial Aura looks a horse that’s going places. He looked in decent order and his great strength is that he is a fantastic jumper. As he came swinging off the final bend he stamped his authority with two magnificent leaps. It looks as if his trainer has a very exciting prospect on his hands and he hasn’t reached his ceiling just yet.
Itchy Feet is not the biggest in terms of stature and he has looked to have found the fences a little daunting because he made a number of errors on the way round, but to his credit he didn’t give up and he plugged on to get second place. Maybe three miles when they go a touch slower may just help his jumping.
Real Steel looked in tip top shape and for most of the race seemed to be jumping and travelling comfortably. He moved up to put pressure on the winner, but once he made a mistake at the third last he soon came off the bridle. Maybe the run was required just to bring him on.
Song For Someone, this admirable 5yo looked fit and produced an electrifying round of jumping. The speed he showed over 10 flights was spellbinding and I like the way he found for pressure to win by 5 lengths. Now his trainer is short of options on where to go, but I would say his long term target is the Aintree Hurdle which should be right up his street.
Call Me Lord who always looks well tried his best to reel in the winner, but this smooth travelling gelding likes to do things on the bridle and is not one that enjoys a battle.
Laurina looked fit for her first start, but as soon as the pressure was applied she weakened dramatically in the closing stages. I am afraid the vet reported she bled from the nose which has become very worrying.
First Flow, making his seasonal return this 8yo by Primary looked just ready to start and his jumping was very sketchy to begin with. He looked to be in trouble when he made a series of mistakes down the back, but as he came to the second last he found extra to jump the last well which was the difference between winning and losing. I just wonder if the ground was too quick for him given that all his victories have had heavy in the going description.
Amoola Gold looked bright and well in search of his third win on the trot. He came from off the pace and he finished with some effect. Even when he is reassessed by the handicapper he should still have more to offer off his revised mark.
Last year’s winner Capeland looked tremendous and didn’t put a foot wrong over 13 fences. He looked the winner coming in to the straight, but he just didn’t have what was needed to seal the deal.
Magic Saint who started favourite got warm in the paddock and was probably not at his best compared to the horse I saw 8 days ago.
Star performance of the meeting:
Chantry House. I was impressed by this fella’s first venture over fences and I like the way he was learning on the job. He has a good blend of speed and stamina and I am sure there will be many more races to come his way over fences.
Wincanton, Thursday November 19th
Paul Nicholls continued his love affair by winning both divisions of this novices' hurdle. Jeremy Pass, this imposing son of Jeremy towered over his 11 rivals and this future chaser was not 100% fit. As the race got underway for an inexperienced horse he travelled and jumped with the look of a professional and once he was given his head he quickened away to win in impressive style. I am sure this fella will have plenty to offer going forward.
Sizable Sam was well supported in the market and this chestnut gelding looked fine beforehand. He moved up with purpose down the back straight, but you could see he was green at the remaining hurdles and ran about approaching the last. I am sure this experience will not go amiss.
The ex flat racer Iron Mike who had an official rating of 69 ran a cracking race on his first venture over hurdles. He travelled strongly in mid field and looked a threat coming off the final bend, but he simply did not have what was needed to challenge the front two.
Cafe Pushkin looked fine beforehand, but in the race itself he was terribly green. To his credit he kept on finding extra and he eventually found what was needed. He is sure to take a giant step forward from this. Paris Dixie, this ex flat racer was not much to look at and she was way too keen for her jockey to control and in the end paid for it in the closing stages.
Zyon returned to the track after 389 days absence and made it a triumphant return. Looking fairly straight this grey gelding dictated matters from the front and when challenged he found extra up the home straight to win going away. Hopefully he will not return too soon, but I see no reason why he cannot progress and his future lies over fences.
Two times winner Beyond The Pale looked the part paddock side and did nothing wrong throughout the race. He was simply beaten by a better rival.
De Young Warrior looked to be carrying condition and under the circumstances I thought he performed well to finish in third.
Getmegold, this son of Getaway looked fit and well, but he was placed on the wide outside and the way he performed suggested the run was needed because he came under pressure coming out of the back straight.
Overall I thought the first division was better and it was run in a slightly faster time.
Horse to note:
Stratagem made a spectacular first performance over fences at Warwick. For a horse so young his jumping was spot on from the word go. He was short when needed and he came up when asked. Nine times out of 10 when you jump like this you win, but believe it or not he was beaten by Phoenix Way.