Things We Learned » Flat to jumps

Flat to jumps

He’llberemembered and Pineau De Re both emerged from the October Maiden at Navan in, well, October, to provide further proof it can be of benefit to pay close attention to the dying embers of the flat season when you are fanning the flames of the new National Hunt term, and Dibella is another who could be of interest now back over hurdles, after finishing fifth behind Hidden Universe in the November Handicap at Leopardstown last Sunday.

Racing from 7lb out of the handicap, Paul Nolan’s filly made progress from the rear and arrived in the firing line at the top of the home straight. She kept to the far side, however, which is probably where the worst of the ground was – as is usually the case at Leopardstown when it gets soft – as the race developed on the near side. Even at that, she was still only beaten three lengths by the winner.

She was racing off an effective mark of 81 on Sunday – less Marc Monaghan’s 7lb claim, for which, admittedly, he is top value – so she looks potentially well handicapped on a mark of 112 over hurdles.

A maiden winner on the flat for Michael Halford, Dibella was progressive over hurdles for Nolan last spring, she was impressive in winning a big-field maiden at Navan in March and she wasn’t at all disgraced in finishing fourth behind Twinlight in a Grade 3 four-year-old hurdle at Fairyhouse in April. She is young and she has raced just four times over hurdles, so she has significant scope for progression. She will be of particular interest now if Nolan chooses to go down the handicap hurdle route with her. There could be a decent prize in her off her current mark.

Gigginstown Flying

The Gigginstown House Stud team are flying. It doesn’t seem to matter what trainer puts the saddle on, or from what yard the horse emerges, as long as the rider is wearing the maroon and white colours, it seems to be business class all the way.

If there was an inkling of such a phenomenon in the early weeks of the season, then the point was hammered home last weekend. From nine runners at Down Royal and Cork over the three days, representing five different trainers, Michael O’Leary’s operation had five winners and a second. As well as landing the feature race of the weekend, the Grade 1 Champion Chase, with Quito De La Roque, who was installed as second favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup afterwards by some firms, there were also impressive winning performances from four potential stars of the future in Ipsos Du Berlais, Sword Of Destiny, Four Commanders and First Lieutenant. Exciting season ahead.

Father and son

Victory for an Aidan O’Brien-trained horse in a Group 1 race usually isn’t anything to write home about. But when that victory happens in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Churchill Downs in Kentucky, where there had never before been an Irish-trained winner of a Breeders’ Cup race, with your 18-year-old son riding, in one tactically astute and cucumber-cool ride becoming the youngest ever jockey to win a Breeders’ Cup heat, then it most certainly is. It was one of those achievements that made you proud to be associated with the sport in this little corner of the globe, proud to be Irish. More than writing home about it, I hope you called your mother to tell her straight away.

Chris spin

Tread warily if you are thinking of backing Captain Chris to win at the Cheltenham Festival this season.

As last season’s Arkle Trophy hero, the Champion Chase would appear to be the ideal target for him 12 months on. However, despite his Arkle heroics, the two-mile trip is probably shorter than ideal. It was his stamina that looked set to see him home over the extra furlong and a half of the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter last week before he unseated his rider at the final fence. The Ryanair Chase could be the race for him at the Festival, or even the Gold Cup.

With the added complication of the presence of Wishfull Thinking – also owned and trained, respectively, by Diana Whateley and Philip Hobbs – also a possible for both of those races, best advice is to hold fire on Cheltenham ante post bets for now, unless you can find one of those kind bookmakers who will offer you a price with a run now.

In the meantime, the King George, run over three miles at right-handed Kempton, seems like a much more suitable project. Best price of 8/1 about him for the Kempton race is probably just about right at present, but it is significantly better than combined odds of just under 7/2 to win whichever one of the three Cheltenham races that ultimately becomes his target.

Ten To Follow

Everybody seems to be entering this Ten To Follow competition these days, so here are my 10: The Leader, The Yellow Brick Road, The Money, Up, The Camino, The Sun, Stephen Fry, The Crowd, The White Rabbit, and Me Up To Carlow.

© The Irish Field, 12th November 2011