Past Winners » Weapon’s Amnesty


(Written 11th January)

Weapon’s Amnesty was nibbled at this morning (for the RSA Chase), so it is time to step in and take the 12/1. This is still looking like a weak enough renewal at this stage … Punchestowns is good, but he still has to do an awful lot more over fences for me to justify a quote of 4/1. We still haven’t seen Mikael D’Haguenet, and the fact that he has been in demand for the Champion Hurdle suggests that there is a chance that Willie Mullins may not be able to get sufficient experience into him to make an RSA Chase challenge a realistic option. Even if he does go and win his beginners’ chase before Cheltenham, there has to be an increased chance that Mullins will send him for the Arkle instead, but as every day goes by and he doesn’t appear in a chase, the chance that the trainer will keep him over hurdles again this season, thus ensuring that he is still a novice chaser next term – as he did with Fiveforthree last season – increases. He is still only six after all and is really lightly raced.

Long Run has entered the fray via his Feltham Chase win, and he is an exciting horse, but connections are talking about the Arkle for him as a possibility instead of this race. Furthermore, Feltham Chase winners have a terrible record in the RSA Chase, and he didn’t jump well enough for me at Kempton. If he does line up at Cheltenham, there is every chance that his jumping will find him out, especially if he goes for this race, and he is well under-priced for me now at no better than 6/1.

Diamond Harry would be a player if he was re-routed from the World Hurdle, a plan that is now under serious consideration apparently since he could only finish third in the Long Walk behind Big Buck’s and Karabak, but it is hardly the ideal preparation, he really should have been winning his beginners’ chase before Christmas and then gaining valuable experience in the better novice chases in order to maximise his chances in the RSA Chase. Pride Of Dulcote and Michel Le Bon are both still out for the season. Bensalem and Knockara Beau have chances, but best odds of 25/1 about the pair is probably accurate enough at this stage. Tazbar was exposed in the Feltham, while Inchidaly Rock is probably going for the four-miler. Jessies Dream is a horse that I like, he was travelling well when he fell in Zaarito’s race at Leopardstown over Christmas, but he has never completed over fences, he has never been beyond two and a half miles, and the fact that he is no better than 25/1 shows how weak a race this is shaping up to be potentially.

Pandorama would have a big chance if the ground came up on the easy side, but it is probable that he really does need soft ground to be at his best, especially going up and down hills, which he is unlikely to get. Weapon’s Amnesty is only the bob of a head behind him anyway on Leopardstown’s soft ground, which would have suited Noel Meade’s horse a lot better than the Charles Byrnes-trained gelding.

Besides that, there are many positives surrounding Weapon’s Amnesty in the context of the RSA Chase. He was a high class staying novice hurdler last season, his best performance coming in the Albert Bartlett Hurdle, significantly at last year’s Cheltenham Festival, when he displayed courage and stamina in abundance to out-battle Pride Of Dulcote up the run-in. Admittedly, he was not nearly as good a hurdler as Punchestowns – he has 24lb to find on that rival on official ratings over hurdles – but he was progressive and, significantly, historically hurdles ratings are not nearly as important in this race as they are in the Arkle, the other championship novices’ chase at the Festival.

The ability to stay and jump is much more important in the RSA Chase, and Weapon’s Amnesty has demonstrated that he has the former in spades, while he is getting progressively much better at the latter. His first two starts over fences earlier this year were both right-handed and over an inadequate two and a half miles, but he was seen to much better effect at Newcastle, going left-handed and stepped up to three miles. He did appear to get outpaced when they quickened up at the bottom bend, but they hadn’t gone a great gallop in the early stages of the race, and Weapon’s Amnesty’s stamina saw him through over the final fence before he idled on the run-in, just as he had done in the Albert Bartlett.

His only other run was in the Knight Frank Chase at Leopardstown. His jumping was a little deliberate and a little more violently to his left than ideal in the early stages of the race, but he warmed up nicely, his jumping improved as the race progressed and he came through to effectively win his race before giving best to Pandorama, whom he had passed at the final fence, on the run-in. It was an expensive short head for us, he had traded at 1.13 in-running, but there is a big chance that we can recoup the loss at Cheltenham.

Davy Russell is the ideal partner for Michael O’Leary’s gelding, a quiet rider who is at his best on hold-up horses, and he rides him well. As a seven-year-old Weapon’s Amnesty is the right age for the race, and as a son of Presenting it follows that he should be even better on the better ground that he should get at Cheltenham. Charles Byrnes says that his next run will be in the Dr PJ Moriarty Chase at Leopardstown, the race that Cooldine won last year before he went on to win the RSA, and traditionally a good pointer to the race. He has a lot to recommend him, and he is still worth backing now at 12/1.