Donn's Articles » Rubi Gold

Rubi Gold

The ante post prices about Rubi Light for the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham came tumbling forward before he and Andrew Lynch had returned to the winner’s enclosure after running their rivals ragged in the John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown on Sunday: 12/1 said William Hill, 10/1 said Ladbrokes, 8/1 said Paddy Power. Then Robbie Hennessy said, you never know, he could just be a Gold Cup horse, and the bookmakers went scurrying for more paper.

Of course, Rubi Light’s obvious Cheltenham target is the Ryanair Chase. His form tells you that he is every inch a two-and-a-half-miler. His sole chase win in his native France was over two and a quarter miles, his sole handicap chase win in Ireland was over two miles, and he has now won a Grade 2 Red Mills Chase and a Grade 1 John Durkan Chase, both run over two and a half miles. Actually, he has never been beyond an extended two and a half miles in his life.

As well as all of that, he ran a cracker to finish third in last year’s Ryanair Chase on ground that was almost certainly faster than ideal, and horses like Fondmort and Our Vic and Albertas Run have proven that this year’s Ryanair Chase is as good a pointer to next year’s Ryanair Chase as you will get.

That said, the brief history of the Ryanair is also strewn with top class staying chasers, horses like Imperial Commander and Our Vic and Mossbank and Taranis who proved themselves previously or subsequently at the highest level over staying trips.

There are two key questions surrounding Rubi Light in the context of a possible tilt at the Gold Cup: does he have the requisite stamina, and does he have the class?

There are reasons for believing that he has every chance of staying at least three miles. His sire, Network, a son of stamina influence Monsun, won a Group 2 race in Germany over a mile and three furlongs as a three-year-old, and is sire of Rubi Ball, who won a Grade 1 chase in France over three and a half miles on heavy ground last month, and last season’s Sefton Novices’ Hurdle winner Saint Are. Rubi Light’s dam was a middle distance performer in France who was bred for stamina and who has also produced Sam Light, winner of a two-and-three-quarter-mile chase on soft ground as a four-year-old at Auteuil last year.

When Robbie Hennessy’s horse got beaten in the Ryanair Chase last March, it was probably a lack of speed that beat him rather than a lack of stamina. It is difficult to differentiate between the two sometimes, and he wasn’t staying on like a lion up the hill, but he was checked on the run around the home turn, before galloping on resolutely all the way to the line in the style of a horse who might appreciate going further.

Trainer Robbie Hennessy thinks that he will stay, Andrew Lynch thinks that he will stay, Davy Russell thinks that he will stay. It may be that he will improve for a trip on the good ground that they get at Cheltenham.

It is easy to conclude from Sunday’s race that he wouldn’t have wanted to have gone much further, that, if they had gone even another furlong, Joncol might have caught him. However, Rubi Light had expended significant energy when Lynch gave him a squeeze going around the home turn to set up a race-winning advantage. Also, if you study the video closely, Joncol actually wasn’t closing any more inside the final 50 yards. On top of that, the ground was very testing at Punchestown on Sunday, and Rubi Light had been out on his own in front for a long way on what was his first run in over two months – he was entitled to get a little bit tired.

As a class guide, Sunday’s performance augurs well. Joncol is top notch over two and a half miles on soft ground, Paul Nolan reported that he had had a clear run with him into the race for the first time in ages, and he was really strong in the market, yet Rubi Light beat him well on merit and the pair of them were clear. As well as that, the time was top class, a remarkable 15 seconds faster than the beginners’ chase that Crash won over the same course and distance a half an hour later and a hugely impressive 0.28secs/furlong faster than Racing Post par.

He is probably going to have to improve again if he is going to be competitive in a Gold Cup, but there is every chance that he will. He is only six rising seven, he remains hugely progressive, and we know how much these young staying chasers can improve at this stage of their career. Five of the last 10 winners of the Gold Cup were aged six or seven.

Next up for Rubi Light is the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown’s Christmas Festival. If he happened to win that, he would surely have embarked on an irrevocable path to the Gold Cup.

© The Racing Post, 13th December 2011