THE WEEK AHEAD: ILLUSTRISSIME PRIMED FOR NEWTON ABBOT
I thought that Illustrissime was given a lot to do at Bangor at the beginning of August. It is interesting to note, therefore, that he will be wearing a tongue tie for the first time when he competes in the William Hill Leading Racecourse Bookmaker Novices' Hurdle (1.55) at Newton Abbot on Saturday. Perhaps Harry Skelton thought his breathing was an issue on that last occasion? Either way he looks primed to run well and go close in the opening race.
The presence of the higher rated Highly Prized and the equally rated Jacamar plus Gaelic Prince (see the Philip Hobbs interview) could possibly result in Illustrissime trading at a ‘backable price’. I would be comfortable supporting him each way at 4/1 or even 7/2; however I suspect that this is more than a little optimistic. The Dan Skelton trained horses usually attract plenty of support and the most likely scenario is for this one to open up quite short despite the presence of a better rated rival. I will happily sit and watch the race if this is the case despite my belief that Illustrissime should be very competitive.
Tikkinthebox reverts to hurdles in the closing Leah Liz Trek For Hospice UK Handicap Hurdle (5.25) at Newton Abbot on Saturday. I lost a little interest in him after his latest effort over the larger obstacles. However, given his prominent way of racing he may offer some ‘back to lay’ potential to small stakes at big odds. I can only imagine getting involved if he is a massive price and therefore offering little downside to a potential trade.
I will be at Hexham on Monday evening to watch the Micky Hammond trained Maison D’Or run over hurdles. He is entered in two races and I hope he goes for the longer race which is the opening contest on the card. I will be keen to support him if he is an each-way price and I will be disappointed if he does not improve on what he has shown thus far. If indeed he does line up in the longer race (4.35) he could be taken on by Chocolat Noir who would have to carry a 7lbs penalty for winning an especially weak looking race at Cartmel last week. The other obvious rival to note is the Ollie Murphy trained Quivvy Lough who finished just in front of another Micky Hammond runner, Connective, on his penultimate start at Uttoxeter. I would be surprised if Maison D'Or did not prove to be a fair bit better than his stable companion Connective. The opening race on the Hexham card does not appear to be a particularly strong renewal and it would be disappointing if Maison D'Or failed to be competitive in the latter stages
TRAINER IN FOCUS: PHILIP HOBBS
The Withycombe based trainer does not have many horses running at this time of year. Those horses that he does run, however, are usually worth a closer look. I spoke with Philip on Thursday morning and this is what he had to say about his four entries over the coming weekend:
“He has been quite frustrating and has experienced more than his fair share of issues. He is probably best watched until he shows something different”.
“He had been off the track for 228 days the last time we saw him and should therefore improve for that run. He certainly needed it that day and he will also improve for the extra distance over the weekend”.
“She was rated as high as 114 when we last had her with us. She has generally shown more ability at home than she has been able to produce on the track. In theory she is clearly extremely well in on her best form; however her first run back for us was very disappointing and it would be difficult to be confident about her chances on the back of that Worcester performance earlier this month".
BALLYGOWN BAY – 4.40 Worcester Sunday “He has performed to a reasonable level in most of his completed starts over hurdles. The better ground will be in his favour and he is working well at home. He must hold a very strong chance in what appears to be a moderate contest”.
LOOKING BACK: DEMI SANG CAN STAY A STEP AHEAD
Francky Du Berlais was firmly put in his place at Cartmel last Saturday.
He finished 7 lengths behind the 128 rated Tonto’s Spirit in receipt of 6lbs and should maintain his 123 rating as a result – hopefully he may even be dropped a pound or two! Consequently he remains of interest when competing in handicap company; particularly when stepped back up in distance. If he is dropped by a pound he will qualify for a 0-120 handicap which will be better still. A few of the Bowen horses have disappointed in the last few weeks which might be worth keeping an eye on. (Something to also bear in mind with regards Play The Ace) Hopefully this will result in a few going in at bigger prizes when this excellent stable inevitably hits form again in the future.
Decor Irlandais travelled like the best horse in the race until tiring badly in the home straight at Cartmel on Monday. He was conceding a lot of weight to the winner (who was completing a four timer) and is worth keeping on side; perhaps over a slightly shorter trip. He should be dropped a few pounds for this apparent setback and I doubt very much that his old mark was the variable responsible for this defeat.
On the same day Nietzsche was outpaced and looked very novicey in the early stages. Although he did stay on at the death it has to be said that very little finished behind him the way the race panned out. His hurdles success at Cheltenham suggests that he may improve when he competes at a stiffer course. In the short term, if he is kept to tracks like Perth and Cartmel he may require a very small field (with no obvious trail blazer in the race) to give him his best chance of success. In the same race I am not sure if something went wrong with Wells De Lune or if he just sulked when headed after his mistake at the eighth fence.
The time comparisons between the 134 rated Nietzsche and the 135 rated Demi Sang (he won over 2m 5f later on the card) make for interesting reading. The Ellison novice did appear to be staying on strongly in the latter stages; however, despite carrying more weight and having run over a significantly longer distance Demi Sang was still the best part of three seconds quicker than Nietzche from the final fence to the winning line. Moreover Ben Haslam’s chaser did not finish far behind Nietzsche when comparing the pair from Nietzche’s first fence (Which was Demi Sang’s third fence) to the winning line. These time comparisons are only one indicator amongst many; that said they do point to the possibility, at least, that Demi Sang might still have more to offer off when the handicapper as had his say.
I understand why Demi Sang has had a reputation for not being the hardiest in a finish on occasions; nonetheless, I remain more of the mind that his jockey made his move earlier than ideal off an overly aggressive pace the last time we saw him at the Cumbrian track in late June. I suspect that Ritchie McLernon held onto him longer here as a result of hitting the front too soon on that occasion. Maybe this 2m 5F trip is close to the ceiling of his stamina limitations; at the same time I am far from convinced that Cartmel is his ideal track despite his two successes here. They do tend to go rather fast round at this Cumbrian track which, at least on Monday, did not seem to suit him in the first half of the race. Ideally I would be most interested to see Demi Sang run on a stiffer course over a slightly shorter trip on another day.