Kempton, Saturday December 26th
On To Victory, this decent flat racer looked in good nick and settled nicely behind the leaders. As he straightened up for home he quickened to go up front only to fall at the second last. I think it was too early to call, but he would have been involved in the finish.
The athletic Third Time Lucki looked in terrific shape and took a good hold for the first half of the race. He moved strongly in to the lead with two hurdles to jump and in the end ended up a fairly cosy winner. Overall it wasn’t the strongest renewal, but the winner is progressing in the right way.
Flic Ou Voyou looked fine/well and he made a few minor mistakes on the way round, but in the end was a spent force coming off the final bend.
Severance who looked fine was no match for the main players from the home turn.
Go Sacre Go is an unfurnished 4yo who needs some time.
Shan Blue looked the part pre-race and produced a slick round of jumping. The field were not strong enough to test him, but in the end he was an impressive winner. He has to prove now that he can produce this performance on an undulating track because all his four wins have come on flat terrain.
The Big Breakaway looked the part paddock side, but you could see he was the baby of the field because he lacked physical strength compared to his opponents. Overall, he ran a creditable race, but if he is going to progress he has to get his jumping sorted out because when the pressure was on he hit four of the last five fences.
If The Cap Fits, this useful hurdler looked in tip top shape, but he never seemed to travel with any conviction and his jumping was sloppy. To his credit he kept on and was able to grab third place.
Golan Fortune looked grand and ran up to his best to finish in fourth.
Silver Streak, this grey joins Lanzarote, French Holly, Binocular and Faugheen as the only 7yos to win this race since 1969. Looking at him in the paddock he looked full of himself and under different riding tactics he jumped out, made all the running and never saw another opponent. This was an excellent performance and it will be interesting to see if these new tactics will be adopted next time out.
This looked any easy assignment for Epatante. This mare looked full of herself pre-race and everything seemed to be going well until she made a mistake three flights from home and she wasn’t on an even keel thereafter. In the end she was beaten fair and square, but the trainer has said some of his horses have been below par of late.
Ballyandylooked in good shape and ran respectably because we know he is not a Grade 1 hurdler at his best.
Frodon was given a patient ride by his jockey out in front and throughout the contest was never threatened for the lead. In the end he was allowed to fill his lungs up on the way round and once straightened for home was not for catching. I think this race turned in to a speed test and if you look at the winning time it was a lot slower than the Novices' Chase run over the same course and distance.
Waiting Patiently, looking fairly fit for his first start of the season he was a touch fresh in the early part, but settled at the rear. He tried to move up going down the back and was right in contention coming to the third last, but he may have taken a blow and once he had gathered his second breath ran on in taking style to fill the runner up spot. The Ascot Chase in February could be an ideal next target.
Last year’s winner Clan Des Obeaux looked well in the defence of his title, but you could see from a fair way out that his jumping wasn’t holding up and he didn’t travel with his customary enthusiasm. I wonder if the hard race he had at Haydock may have just taken the edge off of him.
Saint Calvados looked fine for his seasonal return and I thought that he came out of this race with plenty of credit. He tried to serve it up to the winner with three fences to jump, but his lack of stamina told in the closing stages.
Santini looked fine, but you could still see he was on the burly side. A flat three miles does not play to his strengths and I wouldn’t dismiss his chances come March over the Gold Cup distance.
Cyrname looked fit and well, but I do not think this horse is at his best unless he is dominating the field from the start because when he was producing those good performances he used his jumping to great effect.
Kempton, Sunday December 27th
Heross Du Seuil made a winning debut in this two-mile event, but I think he was lucky to come out on top. This gelding by Rail Link was very fractious paddock side and took a good hold on the way to post. He seemed to race a little keenly on the bridle, but his jumping improved throughout the contest. This 3yo looked booked for second place until he was handed the race at the last. I am sure all this experience will aid him on his next appearance.
The favourite Her Indoors looked well and was placed in mid-field. She seemed to lose her position halfway down the back straight and as she was making up her ground she hit the third last and found herself on the back foot. To her credit she stayed on strongly after jumping the last flight.
Ambassador looked well and was headstrong to start with. Overall I thought he shaped encouragingly.
Nicky Henderson has run some of his best two-milers in this race like Remittance Man, Sprinter Sacre, Simonsig and Altior and this year’s winner could be right up there with the best of them. Shishkin who is a good looking type still looked to be carrying a fair amount of condition, but his class just oozed through as he won by 13 lengths. What I like about this fella is that he can jump at speed, he can take off long or short coming to a fence and he is very nimble on his feet.
Tamaroc Du Mathan looked grand and came from the rear to pick up the pieces in the home straight. Even though he was beaten a fair way this was another step in the right direction.
Elusive Belle ran well to a point, but could be seen in better light in mares’ chases.
Gumball who looked well paid for trying to serve it up to the winner.
Nube Negra announced himself on the big stage with an emphatic victory. Looking in good order this 6yo never came out of second gear and jumped and travelled majestically. When he jumped to the front his jockey let out an inch of reign and he won as he liked. It will be interesting to see if this fella can reproduce this on an undulating track.
Altior returned to the track looking a little tubby, but I wouldn’t use that as an excuse because I felt he was not travelling from a fair way out and it was only his ability to stay further that enabled him to claw in to second place. I think he will be better judged when he runs next time out because after all this was his first start since February.
Duc Des Genievres looked fit and tried to serve it up from the front.
Rouge Vif looked well, but this ground was never going to show him in his best light.
Sceau Royal took the paddock honours, but he tried to take off way too soon at the first open ditch and paid the penalty. The Celebration Chase at Sandown in April should be his main target.
Star performance of the meeting:
SHISHKIN, who put up a breathtaking performance. There doesn’t seem to be a two mile novice around in England that will test him at present and he could be the next superstar two-miler from the Henderson yard.
Look out for this horse:
HONNEUR D’AJONC, I thought this fella stood out in the juvenile hurdle and everything seemed to be going to plan as he took the lead approaching the third last. I thought he had the race in the bag when he unfortunately fell at the last.