Week TWELVE wasn’t as disappointing as expected after missing the transfer window and not selecting a “Stable Star”. In all, just 50pts were dropped as Faugheen (Potential Stable Star) only managed to finish second behind Supasundae in the Irish Champion Hurdle (Bonus Race) and Outlander was just charged down at the line by Edwulf in the Irish Gold Cup (Bonus Race). Both Sutton Manor and Mind’s Eye failed to land a blow in their engagements.
Of those that did race, Buveur D’Air (15pts) won the Contenders Hurdle at Sandown as he liked. That sets him up nicely for the Champion Hurdle and he is likely to have a racecourse gallop beforehand instead of taking in the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton.
Over in Ireland, Defi Du Seuil (0pts) finished unplaced in the Irish Champion Hurdle behind Supasundae and Faugheen (25pts). It wasn’t all bad news in Ireland though as Min (30pts) won the Grade 2 Dublin Chase in good style and Footpad (30pts) was just as impressive beating Petit Mouchoir in the Irish Arkle – The runner-up came out of that with plenty of credit, finishing so close to the eventual winner after banking a few fences. New superstar on the block Samcro (30pts) also did the business dropped in trip in the Deloitte Novices’ Hurdle and easily looked like the best novice hurdler to have appeared this season. All three are now likely to head straight to Cheltenham, fingers crossed they all get there in one piece.
In midweek Warren Greatrex looked to win the Sidney Banks Novices’ Hurdle for the third time in as many years with Western Ryder (0pts) but the plan didn’t come off. It was a chance to make up some small points but failed to pay dividends.
In regards to this week, Western Ryder is the first to get the cut and he is replaced by Gold Cup hopeful Native River (Pictured) who runs in the Grade 2 Denman Chase (25pts). He is three from four at Newbury, including his victory in this race last year. Both the opposition have questions to answer (Cloudy Dream – Stamina, Saphir Du Rheu – Fitness) and if he is to be a Gold Cup contender he needs to be winning this nicely. Next up, Faugheen gets the boot over Finian’s Oscar who has had an indifferent campaign. He will be given a wind operation and could then be found a small novice chase before heading to the Festival. Faugheen, on the other hand, won’t be seen before Cheltenham so is replaced with Saint Calvados, who heads to Warwick for the Grade 2 Kingmaker Novices’ Chase (20pts). He gets a very useful 7lb allowance from North Hill Harvey, who will be a tough nut to crack, but his good jumping (touch wood) and front-running style around here will make him hard to catch. The Betfair Hurdle (50pts) is the big Bonus Race this week so it makes sense to captain the choice with points for the first three home. Jenkins has already done well for the stable so he comes back in with just a 5lb penalty to carry. He is officially 3lb well in and the drop back to 2 miles for this free going sort will play to his strengths. It’s a tough race to weigh up with plenty of unexposed types but he was considered Grade 1 class and with headgear on nothing has got past him yet. James Bowen takes off another 3lb so fingers are crossed he runs a good race. I am slightly concerned that this will be his third race in just five weeks but he comes in to replace L’Ami Serge.
Finally, we are still able to make an “Elite” transfer this month so Defi Du Seuil comes out and Altior, who reappears in the Grade 2 Game Spirit Chase (25pts) comes in. He is a class act, and despite missing most of the season after having a wind operation he should be winning this cosily. Politologue is his main danger but I haven’t been his biggest fan as he has only beaten the likes of Vaniteux and San Benedeto. Arguably, he did beat Fox Norton in the Tingle Creek but that rival has disappointed since and is not an out-and-out two-mile chaser. Taking on Altior is going to be a different level and I expect the Henderson horse to come home well on top.
The expectation isn’t to make up much ground this week but more to consolidate a top 100 position. Transfers will need to be rather tactical leading up to the Festival but there is still plenty of time between then and now to gain valuable points…..