Things We Learned » Triumph caution

Triumph caution

The Triumph Hurdle market has undergone a bit of a shake up this week. First, the ex-Mark Johnston-trained Sadler’s Risk, beaten less than four lengths by subsequent Irish Derby and Secretariat Stakes winner Treasure Beach, and subsequent King George winner Nathaniel in the Chester Vase last May, made an impressive debut for Philip Hobbs at Kempton on Saturday. Then, two hours later, the Willie Mullins-trained Ut De Sivola won at Punchestown, albeit less impressively.

The juveniles’ march continued on Wednesday at Newbury when Alan King’s horse Grumeti, already an impressive winner on his hurdling debut at Taunton at the end of last year, was all set to carry his 7lb penalty to victory when he knuckled over on landing over the second last, and at Taunton on Thursday, when Ranjaan won a Class 2 handicap hurdle against older and more experienced horses off a mark of 132.  These are exciting times for the freshmen.

Tread warily though if you are thinking of getting financially involved in the Triumph Hurdle at this stage. The last two winners of the race, Zarkandar and Soldatino, didn’t make their respective debuts over hurdles in Britain or Ireland until they ran in the Adonis Hurdle at Kempton at the end of February. Lots can change in a short space of time with these juvenile hurdlers, and Dessie Hughes hasn’t even let us see Minsk jump a hurdle yet.

So Young so exciting

It was only a four-horse race, but So Young looked good in beating the talented Trifolium at Navan on Sunday over the minimum trip, which is almost certainly too sharp for him. The merit of the performance was confirmed by the winning time, the fastest comparative time on the day by far, nine seconds faster than the handicap hurdle and 13 seconds faster than the maiden hurdle run over the same course and distance on the day.

Willie Mullins’s horse would have gone mighty close in the Neptune Hurdle last March, despite having had to endure a wide trip throughout, but for a fairly bad mistake at the final flight just as he was delivering his challenge, momentum up – a race in which it is significant that Ruby Walsh chose to ride him in front of Champion Hurdle aspirant Rock On Ruby. He is three for three now this term so far, he has raced just seven times over hurdles, he has only just turned six and he is almost certainly still progressing.

The depth of World Hurdle options open to Mullins – Mourad, Zaidpour, Mikael D’Haguenet, Thousand Stars and now So Young – is quite staggering, but it would be surprising if this fellow was not high on the list.

Powell power

Brendan Powell (junior) has gone mainstream. When you happen upon a talented young rider, a rider who you think is good value for a 7lb claim, you can usually use it to betting advantage, knowing that, if you are backing a horse that he is riding, like Act Of Kalanisi in the Ladbroke Hurdle last month, you are getting a good rider and a claim with a horse that may be over-priced, simply because people may be wary of backing a horse who is set to be ridden by a claiming rider with whom they are not really familiar.

Not any more, not with Brendan Powell. A two-page feature in the Racing Post and an appearance as a guest on the Morning Line last Saturday has blown the early-mover advantage out of the water. Now we know what he looks like under his helmet and goggles, we know that Richard Hughes is his role model, and we know that his folks just call him B.

Fair play to the youngster though, his talent deserves opportunity. The guest test may not be his strong point (they just didn’t suit him), but you can easily forgive him that one when he rides with the calmness and the competence that he does.

Bumper payout

Fair play to Michael O’Leary. Having failed to tempt Ronnie Bartlett to sell him Simonsig after the Fair Mix gelding had won the Racing Post Champion Point-to-Point Bumper at Fairyhouse last April (no deal – an offer the winning owner actually could refuse), the Gigginstown House supremo has decided to improve the offer this year. As well as the offer to buy the winner of the race blind for €150,000, as long as he pleases vet John Halley, the owner of the winning horse, if he sells, will also receive another €25,000 if his horse wins a graded hurdle race the following season in the Gigginstown colours, and another €25,000 if he wins a graded chase at any stage during his career.

Michael O’Leary didn’t become Michael O’Leary by making mindless offers that favoured the object of the offer, and this one has obviously been well thought through, with a recent roll of honour for the race that includes Pandorama, Gigginstown’s own Last Instalment and the afore-mentioned now-exciting hurdler Simonsig. Even so, in these chastened times, it would be a brave/rich man who wouldn’t at least consider the sweetened deal.

VC value

Of the eight runners in this afternoon’s Victor Chandler Chase, Finian’s Rainbow and Al Ferof are the two who are most likely to progress sufficiently to challenge Sizing Europe and Big Zeb for this year’s Champion Chase crown. However, taking this afternoon’s race in isolation, they are both priced up on reputation rather than proven ability. Either could win, of course, they could finish first and second, but combined odds of about 1/2 is far too short. In what is a good each-way race, the value surely lies in taking the front pair on.

© The Irish Field, 21st January 2012