Things We Learned » Ces double so close

Ces double so close

At the end of the flat season, Willie Mullins prepared us for the dominance that is likely to follow at the start of the National Hunt season by almost completing the English and Irish Cesarewitch double.

He won the Irish Cesarewitch on Sunday with Digeanta, who battled on well under an aggressive and well-judged ride by Billy Lee.  Available at 25/1 in the morning and sent off at an SP of 16/1, it was an astute move to re-route him from the Newmarket version on Saturday.

If the ball had hopped a little differently, Mullins could have won that one too with Renneti.  The Irish Wells gelding was keener than ideal for Jamie Spencer through the early stages of the race, behind a pace that was unusually slow for a Cesarewitch, and he was forced wider than ideal in the home straight.  Even so, he picked up well from the three-furlong pole, and he finished best of all to snatch fourth place from Nearly Caught.

Renneti will be of interest off a similar mark if he takes his chance in the November Handicap at Doncaster, and he will be of even greater interest again now over hurdles.  He has run just five times over hurdles, and remember that he was beaten just a half a length by The Tullow Tank in the Royal Bond Hurdle two years ago, when he had his stable companion Arctic Fire a length behind him in third.

Chasers and hurdlers

You know that you are about to get into the teeth of the National Hunt season when Timeform’s Chasers and Hurdlers lands on your doorstep, carefully placed in the same spot as the spot in which they put the telephone directory.

You probably won’t get through all 1,056 pages until mid-February or early March at the earliest – Timeform’s Chasers and Hurdlers, that is, not the telephone directory – but that is not the point of the book.  It is as a frame of reference as you move from month to month through the season that it excels.

In the meantime, there are some nuggets of information, some of which Timeform helpfully point out in the summary.  Like, that Nicky Henderson’s horses recorded just 15 wins over fences last season, which is quite a remarkable statistic (which you had to double-check, and which, sure enough, is true), given that the master of Seven Barrows had 129 winners in total, more than any other trainer in Britain in the 2014/15 season.

There are also some boldly-expressed opinions, like that Peace And Co (staying with the Nicky Henderson theme/team) could be a more formidable opponent for Faugheen this season than any opponent he faced last season.

Whets the appetite, doesn’t it?

Jack Hobbs draw

The draw issue seems to have followed John Gosden from Longchamp to Ascot.  After the we-expected-a-wide-draw-and-we-got-a-wide-draw banter from Paris, with Golden Horn overcoming stall 14 to post a famous victory, Gosden surmised during the week that he hoped he didn’t get a wide draw for Jack Hobbs in today’s Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot.  And guess what?

Interestingly, statistically, a wide draw over 10 furlongs at Ascot is not the disadvantage that you might think it is.  Also, with Jack Hobbs in stall 12 of 13, if there is one horse you want drawn outside you, it is your front-running stable companion.  Again, guess what?

In October 2009 – yes it really is that long ago – Frankie Dettori did a ‘Golden Horn’ on Opinion Poll in a big one-and-a-half-mile handicap at Ascot.  Drawn in stall one, on the outside as it was then, Dettori charted a wide course for the first three furlongs before tacking across and joining the prominent racers.  As with Golden Horn, it was a winning strategy.  Don’t be surprised if William Buick and Rab Havlin employ similar tactics today.  In any case, if Jack Hobbs gets beaten, it shouldn’t be because of the draw.

Irish Triple Crown

Interesting, all this talk about an Irish Triple (National Hunt) Crown, in the light of the chat about the international (Flat) Triple Crown, and the announcement of the British (National Hunt) Triple Crown, the Kauto Star Triple Crown, the Betfair Chase, King George and Cheltenham Gold Cup Triple Crown.

If a sponsor (or insurer) could be found, the races that would constitute an Irish Triple Crown are there: the Lexus Chase, the former Hennessy Gold Cup and the Punchestown Gold Cup.  It has to be difficult, especially if someone is going to insure it for a million euro or thereabouts for any horse who can win all three races, but it also has to be achievable.  This one would be both.

In 2002/03, as a novice, Beef Or Salmon won the Lexus and the Hennessy, but he didn’t make it to Punchestown after he fell at the third fence in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.  If there had been a significant bonus for the Triple Crown back then, who knows, Michael Hourigan’s horse may have skipped Cheltenham and gone to Punchestown.

Again in 2005/06, Beef Or Salmon won the Lexus and the Hennessy, but didn’t make it to Punchestown after finishing down the field in War Of Attrition’s Cheltenham Gold Cup.  He did win the Punchestown Gold Cup in 2004, but he had been beaten by Best Mate in the Lexus that season, and he didn’t run in the Hennessy.

In 2012, Sir Des Champs was beaten a total of three parts of a length in the Lexus before going on to win the Hennessy and coming back to Punchestown – after finishing second in the Cheltenham Gold Cup – to win the Punchestown Gold Cup.

So, just because no horse has ever won all three races in the same season, it doesn’t mean that it can’t be done.  It would take a special horse to do it, but that is as it should be.  The winning of these three races in the same season would have the correct mix of difficulty and achievability, and it would create a fantastic end-of-season buzz at Punchestown if one horse was racing for a million.

Future Champions weekend

Future Champions day worked well last week at Newmarket, moved from yesterday, the day before British Champions’ Day, to a week earlier, and catching out the calendar printers in the process.

The move afforded Air Force Blue and Minding and their ilk all the column inches they deserved on Saturday, when they didn’t have to compete with the Champions’ Day previews.  And, as a just reward, the day might just live up to its name now.

Next project for Newmarket: move July Cup day from Saturated Saturday back a day to Far Freer Friday.

© The Irish Field, 17th October 2015