Things We Learned » Knee-jerk market

Knee-jerk market

Strange the knee-jerk reactions that the Cheltenham markets have to a defeat. When Noble Prince got beaten by Blazing Tempo in the Normans Grove Chase at Fairyhouse two weeks ago, his price for the Ryanair Chase was almost doubled, from a low of 4/1 to a high of 15/2, despite the fact that a narrow defeat by a high-class mare at Fairyhouse on soft ground over two miles in January was really not that detrimental to Paul Nolan’s gelding’s chance of winning a race run over two miles and five furlongs at Cheltenham on fast ground in March.

Last Sunday at Leopardstown, similar story. Blackstairmountain was a 14/1 for the Arkle at Cheltenham before he lined up for the Leopardstown version. He was never going to be suited by the ever-softening ground, he drifted from a best morning price of 13/8 to an SP of 5/2, his chance getting smaller and his odds getting longer with every drop of rain that fell. Even so, when he finished fifth, an old distance behind the impressive winner Flemenstar, the bookmakers pushed him out to best odds of 25/1 for the Arkle, and that just doesn’t make sense.

It happens. Big Zeb was a bigger price on the day of the 2010 Champion Chase than he was for the race before he got beaten in the Tingle Creek the previous December, despite the fact that there were obvious excuses for his run there. Sizing Europe was a bigger price for the 2011 Champion Chase on the morning of the race than he was before he got beaten in the Tied Cottage Chase in his prep run, his first run since the previous November.

There is value to be had if you can find a valid reason to forgive a horse a poor run. Blackstairmountain may not be able to beat Sprinter Sacre and Peddlers Cross and Al Ferof and their ilk in what is shaping up to be one of the hottest Arkles in years, but if he was a 14/1 shot for the race before Sunday, he certainly isn’t a 25/1 shot for it now.

Champion match

Speaking of Sizing Europe and Big Zeb, fair play to Henry de Bromhead and Colm Murphy for sticking to their guns and allowing the Champion Chase favourite and second favourite take each other on in the Boylesports Tied Cottage Chase at Punchestown tomorrow. Both trainers are obviously convinced that this is the right race for their horses as a stepping stone to Cheltenham, and neither has run scared because the other has been honing in on the same race for weeks. It means that we have a fascinating contest in store tomorrow, weather permitting. Don’t be surprised, by the way, if tomorrow’s result is not confirmed at Cheltenham.

Handicap blip

You can understand Nicky Henderson’s frustration. Darlan was raised 9lb for his half-length defeat of the 138-rated Jump City in a novices’ hurdle at Taunton in early January, which left him on a mark of 146. Henderson was at pains to point out that, although Barry Geraghty didn’t have to be at all hard on JP McManus’s horse in order to win, the form actually wasn’t that strong, but the handicapper stuck to the 9lb hike nonetheless.

All very fine, handicapper sticks to his guns, nothing newsworthy there. However, Jump City then comes out and gets well beaten in a handicap hurdle at Chepstow on heavy ground (all his British form is on better ground), and the handicapper says, maybe the trainer was right, and drops Darlan 3lb. Still very fine? Not really. The problem is that the weights for the Betfair Hurdle (the old Totesport Trophy, a race that Henderson has won four times in the last 12 renewals) had been framed in the interim, so Darlan is set to race off his notional mark of 146, and not his real mark of 143. That 3lb could make a huge difference in a race as competitive as the Betfair Hurdle.

Come on Lyreen

Boston Bob confirmed the suspicion that he was one of the top novice hurdlers in the country – if not the top novice hurdler in the country – when he won the Grade 2 two-and-a-half-mile contest at Leopardstown on Sunday, giving 7lb and more to all his rivals. However, the performance that Lyreen Legend put up in finishing second, seven lengths in front of the highly-regarded Make Your Mark, seems to have gone largely under the radar. As well as enhancing his own reputation – and he has probably improved since the Slaney Hurdle, he had apparently just recovered from a bout of ringworm before that race – Dessie Hughes’s gelding’s performance did no harm to the reputation of his Naas conqueror, Monksland.

Next ambassador

Peter Casey put himself right in line for the role as HRI’s National Hunt ambassador for the 2012/13 season with his performance on Sunday – 350,000 YouTube viewers for racing is f****** dream territory.

© The Irish Field, 4th February 2012