In the Jumps Classifications of last season, published back in July, the top spot was shared by Al Boum Photo and Cyrname, both rated 173, which may seem a fudge, but the case of Chacun Pour Soi, who was 172, was perhaps the most contentious calculation, and it all revolves around Min.
Not many things revolve around Min, not much attention nor many awards, but he’s a true top-notcher with a bank of six Grade 1 wins, and it would have been eight without Altior. Min was beaten by only one horse last term – Chacun Pour Soi, by a comfortable 3¾ lengths – which was sandwiched between Grade 1 successes for Min in the John Durkan and Ryanair, yet Min’s official rating was downgraded by 2lb (to 169) from the previous season, the logical line being that Chacun Pour Soi would have been top of the shop if Min hadn’t been realigned, unreasonably so I’d say, given his record in 2019/20.
We may well see all of them this weekend, alas in different races: Chacun Pour Soi is eyeing up the Hilly Way at Cork, Altior has an important day – to see whether he’s still important – in the Tingle Creek at Sandown, and Min makes his regular reappearance in the John Durkan at Punchestown, a race he won in 2018 and 2019. The problem for Min is the new Min.
From the same stable, but three years Min’s junior, Allaho is naturally gravitating towards the 2½m division this season after losing out late on to a couple of stronger stayers in the RSA, meaning that him and Min are now fighting over the same space, possibly starting on Sunday.
Like Min, there’s rarely much fuss or fanfare about Allaho, but in his case it’s because we haven’t seen all that much of him, minded by Mullins, nonetheless firing big shots at two Cheltenham Festivals, also third in the Albert Bartlett the year before the RSA, behind Minella Indo both times.
This is a big season for Allaho, and I’ve already backed him ante-post for the Ryanair, as well as the King George, in the belief that he’d be in his element around Kempton’s easy 3m, though time is running out for him to get ready for a Christmas cracker like the King George, hence he may have to take on Min on Sunday.
But at least we’d then know if Allaho has got what it takes, as Min is one of the best chasers in training, whatever the official view.
The official view of Altior last season is that he likewise wasn’t the horse he one was, his rating reduced from 175 to 171, though the only question around that is whether he in fact fell further.
It’s probably two-and-a-half years since we last saw a full-power Altior, when he won his first Champion Chase by 7 lengths (from the aforementioned Min), and his only two runs last season comprised of a kicking by Cyrname and a deep-digging defeat of Sceau Royal and Dynamite Dollars in the Game Spirit.
That flat spot of his keeps getting flatter and longer, which is why I’d rather have the field in what the market has more or less as a coin toss as to whether Altior will win, which probably says less about the opposition and more about him, a make-or-break weekend for Altior and therefore the division, Chacun Pour Soi ready with his rebuttal on Sunday.
Nico de Boinville’s association with Altior means Jerry McGrath gets to borrow his mate’s Porsche, so to speak, at Aintree aboard Gold Cup runner-up Santini, though in actual fact he’s more of a deluxe Land Rover than a supercar, built for stamina rather than speed.
You get the impression Santini will take some warming up in his campaign like he takes some warming up in his races, which might leave him vulnerable in this spot, against the mechanical Native River for one, but Santini is arguably the most interesting horse for inspection this weekend, to see if his dynamics have changed at all, a possibility of it after just ten races in his life.
One last note on Nicky Henderson, regards the Listed handicap hurdle at Sandown (3.35) on Saturday which he has won in three of the last eight years, which he targets this time with Mister Coffey, who’s a short price already but deservedly so.
He’s up 10lb for winning over the same course and distance on his reappearance, but what he did there – a rare turbo boost even after blundering the second-last – suggests he may be in a different league to this lot.
What else is in focus this weekend are the Nationals: the Becher and Grand Sefton are over the National fences, and up-and-comer Cloudy Glen is the hot horse for the London National at Sandown, liable to be favourite for the Welsh National if all goes well there, but the Welsh National has its own trial at Chepstow on Saturday, and The Two Amigos is a big player for it.
He was a fine fifth in last year’s Welsh National when not quite getting home, having led at the fourth-last, but the trial is over a shorter distance, and he warmed up for it with an encouraging comeback third at Bangor, behind a pair of six-year-olds, Captain Tommy one of them, likewise entered on Saturday.
Finally, late afternoon on Saturday, there’s an All-Weather Fast-Track Qualifier at Wolverhampton which looks packed with pace. It’s a braver person than me who backs Yazaman, but a flat-out gallop could keep his mind on the job, as may racing around a bend for the first time, and he’ll also have a new jockey, Cieren Fallon given the job of coaxing and cajoling him.
Archie Watson and Hollie Doyle won it last year with Maystar, and they team up this time with Mighty Gurkha, back from the Breeders’ Cup. He has a job on with his penalty for the Sirenia, plus he’s unlikely to get his own way in front this time, but if anyone can conjure up some magic then it’s Hollie Doyle, who’ll be jetting off next week, alongside Tom Marquand, to Hong Kong for the International Jockeys’ Championship.