Things We Learned » Last class

Last class

Last Instalment is one of the most exciting novice chasers in training on either side of the Irish Sea, and, contrary to popular opinion before Wednesday, he does not need heavy ground to produce his best.

There were pockets of good-ground form on the Philip Fenton-trained gelding’s cv even before Wednesday – he won his point-to-point on yielding ground and he finished third in a Grade 2 hurdle as a novice at the Fairyhouse Easter Festival – but his form over fences on soft and heavy ground was so good that it was logical to fear that the drying ground on Wednesday might have been against him.

After they had jumped three fences, however, those fears were allayed. The Gigginstown House horse was having a cut at his fences, jumping as exuberantly as usual, as fluently as ever. He hardly missed a beat. Brian O’Connell allowed him stride on at the second last, and he stayed on really well to record an impressive Grade 1 victory.

The ground was officially good on Wednesday, good to soft in places, and the times on the day back up that assessment. It should not be much faster at Cheltenham in March. With talk now of RSA Chase favourite Grands Crus possibly going the Gold Cup route instead, the novices’ race surely has to be Last Instalment’s primary objective now. His fluent jumping would be a huge asset in an RSA Chase, and he could be the horse to provide Michael O’Leary with his second win in the race in three years, and Ireland with our fourth win in four.

Time glitch

Speaking of times, there may have been something going on with the two-mile-one-furlong chase start at Leopardstown during the week. Big Zeb went a half a second faster than standard in landing the Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase on Tuesday, clocking the only time on the day that was faster than standard, and the fastest time on the day by some way. That is plausible in isolation, the ground was good to yielding, and Big Zeb is a top class two-mile chaser who was pushed all the way to the line by another high class horse in Noble Prince.

However, the only other two two-mile-one-furlong chases at the meeting, both run on Monday, also went under standard, the novice Blackstairmountain by almost eight seconds and the fairly exposed 123-rated handicapper Arklow Ger by over five seconds on ground that was officially described as soft. Outside of those two races, the fastest race on the day was the four-year-old hurdle, won by Midnight Game, which was run in a time that was over five seconds slower than standard. It could be time to get out the measuring tape again.

Same time

And still on time, which is, as is commonly known, of the essence, more co-ordination between the timings of races in Britain and Ireland would be a good thing. Of course, it is difficult on St Stephen’s Day, with three Irish meetings and about a hundred British ones, so clashes between Down Royal or Limerick or Leopardstown and the major races at Wetherby or Kempton, like the Feltham Chase, were probably difficult to avoid.

However, it does calm down a lot on 27th, with no Down Royal and only three British National Hunt meetings, so a clash between the Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase and the Wayward Lad Chase at Kempton – the vast majority of people who are interested in watching one are also interested in watching the other – would surely have been avoidable with just a short chat between the respective authorities in the lead up to the races.

Troytown trials

The Paddy Power Chase on Tuesday gave a nice boost to the form of Navan’s Troytown Chase. Not only was the Paddy Power winner, Cross Appeal, challenging at the last in the Troytown when he stumbled badly on landing, but the Troytown winner, Groody Hill, ran a cracker to finish third in the Paddy Power off an 8lb higher mark, while the Troytown runner-up, Ad Idem, wasn’t at all disgraced in finishing eight, just eight lengths behind the winner, off top weight. Those three had it to themselves from a fair way out in the Troytown, and it could be worth keeping all three on side for a little while longer.

Techno fobe

Here’s one for you. You discover that a technical glitch, or an unfortunate series of technical glitches, has cost one of your customers £23 million, and could have cost him or her £600 million. Do you: (a) take the £23 million back from the customers who benefited from the glitch, which was not of their making, and give it to the customer, who may or may not have been partly or wholly responsible for the glitch, then issue an apology by means of an explanation, and carry on trading, or (b) cease trading immediately, spend as long as you need to spend to determine the source of the glitch, make a detailed assessment of the error available to all affected customers, then resume trading, as long as you are sure, and have assured customers, that all reasonable measures have been taken to ensure that such an error cannot re-occur; then, depending on the outcome of your investigation, determine who should suffer the £23 million loss – the customer who lost out, the customers who gained, or you, the company who facilitated the transaction?

© The Irish Field, 31st December 2011