Things We Learned » Keep the faith

Keep the faith

Irish Gold Cup day is one of the big days on the Irish National Hunt racing calendar, but it is also an increasingly strong pointer to the Cheltenham Festival.  And it is not just the winners from Leopardstown who need to be noted with Cheltenham in mind.

Windsor Park was beaten in the Deloitte Hurdle last year before going to Cheltenham and winning the Neptune Hurdle.  On The Fringe was beaten in the hunters’ chase at Leopardstown before going to Cheltenham and winning the Foxhunter.

And this is not a brand new phenomenon.  In recent years, Tiger Roll and Countrywide Flame were both beaten in the Spring Hurdle before going on to win the Triumph, Lord Windermere was beaten in the Dr PJ Moriarty Chase before winning the RSA Chase, and Jim Culloty’s horse was also beaten in the Irish Gold Cup before winning Gold at Cheltenham.

It may pay to retain faith in some of the beaten horses from last Saturday’s meeting.  The ground was heavy and testing, conditions were tiring.  Conditions were probably very different to the conditions that horses will experience at Cheltenham in four weeks’ time.

In particular, it may pay to retain faith in Road To Riches and Ivanovich Gorbatov.  Neither horse is at his best on soft ground.  Ivanovich Gorbatov won his maiden hurdle on soft ground all right, but all his form on the flat was on good and fast ground, he won a handicap off a mark of 97 on good to firm ground.  It may be that he just got away with it once on his hurdling bow over Christmas.

Road To Riches was third in last year’s Gold Cup on soft ground, but he won a Galway Plate and a Champion Chase on goodish ground.  Soft ground has always been a worry.

Also, Noel Meade’s horse raced up with a fast pace on Saturday, so fast a pace that Carlingford Lough, a 999/1 detached last as they approached the second last fence, was able to pass all his nine rivals – or eight of them at least – inside the final two furlongs and win by 12 lengths.

Wherever he goes at Cheltenham, Ryanair Chase or Gold Cup, as a horse with course and festival form, Road To Riches is a player again this year.

Lough tops

It was some training performance by John Kiely, to transform Carlingford Lough from Lexus Chase also-ran, sixth of six, beaten 34 lengths by Don Poli, to Irish Gold Cup winner.

The Lexus Chase and the Irish Gold Cup are similar contests, both run, as they are, over three miles at Leopardstown, usually on soft ground.  There was no material difference between the two contests this year, nothing to which you could point and say, that was the thing that made the difference.  In that instance, you have to put it down to the trainer.

It was a fine ride by Mark Walsh too, a ride that had coaxing and cajoling, determination and perseverance, that transformed his horse from a 999/1 shot to a 12-length winner, a ride of which Sir Anthony himself would have been proud.

The Cheltenham Gold Cup may not be the thing for Carlingford Lough, mind you.  The King’s Theatre gelding has run at Cheltenham twice, he finished sixth in the 2014 RSA Chase and he finished ninth in the 2015 Gold Cup.  Cheltenham just may not be his track.

As well as that, he is 10 now, and you have to go back to 1998 to Cool Dawn to find the last horse aged 10 or more to win the Gold Cup.

JP McManus’ horse could be a Grand National horse though.  A flat, galloping, left-handed four miles on spring good to soft ground should suit him well.

His new rating of 163 is 2lb lower than the official rating that Many Clouds had when the National weights were framed last year, and Many Clouds was allowed race at Aintree off a mark of 160, so 5lb lower than his official mark.  Using the same barometer, Carlingford Lough should be allowed into the National on a mark of 158 or 159, which would be 2lb or 1lb lower than the mark off which Many Clouds won it last year.

Carlingford Lough could also be a Punchestown Gold Cup horse.  He was pulled up in the big novices’ handicap chase at the 2013 Punchestown Festival on his first run there, but that was on desperately heavy ground.  On his second and only other run at Punchestown, at the 2014 festival, he won the Punchestown Gold Cup, beating Ballycasey and Morning Assembly and Don Cossack.

Going concerns

Here we go again.  The rains fall in January and February, we put another new name on another new storm, and people say that the ground will probably be soft at the Cheltenham Festival this year.  Even Cheltenham clerk of the course Simon Claisse said during the week that he felt sorry for ante post punters, because even he had no clue what the state of the ground would be this year.

Also this week, Paddy Power opened their betting on what the official going description on the opening day of the Festival would be: 2/5 good to soft, 15/8 soft, 7/1 good, 33/1 heavy.

At least somebody knows.

Market correction

Speaking of markets, it was interesting to monitor the divergences of opinion on the two main JP McManus representatives in this afternoon’s Betfair Hurdle during the week.

On Wednesday evening, Sky Bet couldn’t split Modus and Blazer, betting 5/1 the pair.  Betfred could split them all right, they bet 5/1 Modus, 6/1 Blazer.  Paddy Power could also split them, going 7/2 Blazer, 7/1 Modus.  So one firm gave the two horses the same chance, and one (firm) gave one (horse) a slightly better chance, while (you still with this?) another (firm) gave the other (horse) twice as good a chance.

By yesterday morning, the market had reached its points of equilibrium: 7/2 Blazer across the board, 7/1 Modus, 33/1 Champagne At Tara, 40/1 Waxies Dargle, 40/1 Matorico.  That’s the correct answer.

This day last year

Speaking of Sir Anthony, remember this day last year?

“I’ll tell you something else Rishi, it’s going to be the last time I ride 200 winners.”

Difficult to believe that it is a year ago today.


© The Irish Field, 13th February 2016