Week SIX will be much quieter than the rough and tumble that was week five. With it being a slow weekend in regards to no bonus races and limited prize money on offer, other than the Grade 1 Challow Hurdle (£22,780) at Newbury and a pair of Grade 2 races and a valuable Grade 3 Handicap at Cheltenham on New Years Day.
The Christmas period was desperate with Min, Faugheen, Djakadam, Sizing John, Fox Norton, Death Duty and Elgin all failing to score any points at all. But even more sadly, the talented and tough Nichols Canyon was lost after breaking a shoulder in the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown. He was a real firm favourite and as an eight-time Grade 1 winner, he would have deserved a very happy retirement after his racing career. Thoughts are very much with all connections.
The week didn’t start very well with Unowhatimeanharry (15pts) managing just third in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot. He looks to have found his limit now and with progressive types beating him in his previous two races he is falling out of favour. His run was followed by Elgin (0pts) running well in the Racing Welfare Handicap Hurdle, but failing to land a blow, finishing just sixth.
Moving on to Leopardstown on Boxing Day, Footpad (30pts) put us back on track when winning the Racing Post Novice Chase. However, what didn’t go to plan was the fact that Death Duty (0pts) was rerouted here instead of carrying an 8lb penalty in a Grade 2 at Limerick, a race he was 99% sure of going for. Unfortunately, he didn’t even complete, falling at the last when fading into third. Where he heads next now has to be questionable but a step back up in trip will be a necessity. At Kempton, things really picked up with “Stable Star” Buveur D’Air (100pts) winning the Christmas Hurdle, with The New One (25pts) picking up some pieces back in second.
The only other point scorer over this period was Apple’s Jade (30pts) who held on nicely to win the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown.
With so much up in the air after all of this, the question is who gets the chop and who is held on to going into week 6? The first to get the cut is Djakadam, as he is solid but is starting to lack that edge with his past two wins coming in the John Durkan – a race that he was beaten in this year. The one to come in is Kilbricken Storm (Stable Star) who takes his chance in the Challow Hurdle (20 Points) at Newbury. Unowhatimeanharry is also looking as if his winning days at Grade 1 level are over and he is replaced by Waiting Patiently, who will likely take his chance in the Grade 3 Handicap Chase (30 points) at Cheltenham on New Years Day. His jumping was perhaps a little rusty for my liking on his seasonal debut and he has had a minor setback (cough) but his form when beating Politologue is top class and off of a reasonable mark of 156 he looks better handicapped than most of the rest. The danger might be Burtons Well but he seemingly finds it difficult to win. Finally, rather than risk chucking in Old Guard for the Relkeel, I have edged on the side of caution and put Samcro back in before his tilt at the Grade 1 Lawlors Of Naas Novices Hurdle (30 points) next weekend. Being a Grade 1 he could meet tough opposition such as Next Destination but a chance has to be taken and he has always looked really smart. He takes the pace of Elgin who is handicapped to his best and looks below Grade 1 level.
Faugheen, Min, Fox Norton, The New One and Death Duty keep their places…… for now…..
There is obviously a worry regarding Faugheen as he was pulled-up rather quickly after being beaten. He is the next on the chop list but, given how impressive he was on his return, he still has some ability and until something comes to light/he is ruled out he retains his place. Min would have won the Grade 1 Chase but for leaning in on Simply Ned. He proved he is worth keeping despite “defeat” and with Douvan and Altior currently on the sidelines, the division is open for him to make a name for himself. It is a little bit different for Fox Norton and The New One who are kind of in no-mans land. Both are talented Grade 1 winners but there are question marks regarding trips for both and future targets are unknown. Both are likely to score points but that will depend on how they are campaigned from here. Death Duty is the other who now has a few questions to answer. He was never going to be as effective over the minimum trip so he is given another chance if none the worse for his fall.
2018 is just around the corner so here is to a Happy New Year…..!!!