Week FOUR was a good week for the stable with all six runners scoring points. It wasn’t completely straightforward though as Top Notch was due to run in the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon last Sunday and the meeting was abandoned due to snow. Fortunately though, the Grade 2 was rescheduled and run at Taunton the following Thursday.
The first bonus race this week was the Grade 1 Tingle Creek at Sandown, where Fox Norton carried the “Stable Star” tag. He got a little behind early on in the race and then made two minor errors when chasing down Politologue on the turn for home. He got to within half a length of the eventual winner and eventually finished second (50pts). With a clearer round or a more positive ride he may well have won, but taking nothing away from Politologue he held on gamely.
There were just 15 minutes separating the John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown and the Hilly Way Chase at Cork, where three runners took the stage. Sizing John (50pts) took the former, which was a Grade 1 and a bonus race, with Djakadam staying on for second (25pts). The latter saw an impressive performance from Un De Sceaux (30pts) in a race where desperate conditions played to his strengths. Just 30 minutes after that Shattered Love (20pts) took the Grade 3 Mares Novices Chase, after which the rest of the card was abandoned due to ground conditions deteriorating.
As mentioned above, Top Notch (25pts) then added further points to the tally to conclude what had been a good week. The race had originally held a value of over £30k but the rescheduled event fell just short of that, slightly reducing the points on offer.
Overall, it was a further 200pts in the bank meaning a total of 705 points going into Week 5 (20th position).
This week is a tricky one with plenty of action coming thick and fast over the Christmas period. Shattered Love, Top Notch and Un De Sceaux have all made way this weekend with engagements unlikely until after the New Year. Djakadam has been spared in case he turns up in either the King George VI Chase at Kempton or the Christmas Chase at Leopardstown, both of which are bonus races. The King George is also a potential target for Fox Norton.
Those coming in this week are Le Prezien, who runs in the Caspian Caviar Handicap Chase at Cheltenham – the weeks only bonus race. He also carries the “Stable Star” burden after finishing third in a similar contest on the old course last month. He got a bit further back than ideal in that race after a few early errors but in this smaller field and being better off at the weights than the first two he should make his presence felt as he is a classy consistent sort. Old-timer The New One is preferred over the Willie Mullins runner, Melon. His record at Cheltenham is okay at first glance but when narrowing it down to his runs on the New course he has only been beaten once (a neck) in five starts. including the last three renewals of this. He beat My Tent Or Yours here last year giving him 8lb and only has to give him 6lb this time around. The third one to come in this weekend is We Have A Dream, who runs in the Grade 2 Juvenile Hurdle at Doncaster. It looks a match race between him and the Paul Nicholls trained Act Of Valour. The latter jumped well on debut and looks a good sort but thoughts are that there is more improvement to come from the former who jumped big at times and beat two subsequent winners.
A lot rides on Le Prezien this weekend, hoping he can keep us in contention for a manic Christmas period where a possible eleven out of twelve runners could be taking the stage…..