Things We Learned » Now you see it

Now you see it

Lion Na Bearnai beat Four Commanders and Start Me Up by three parts of a length and a short head in the Grade 3 Ten Up Chase at Navan in February, all three horses carrying 11st 3lb.

Between then and last Monday, Four Commanders and Start Me Up had both been to Cheltenham and back, both running crackers, the former finishing third in the National Hunt Chase and the latter finishing fifth in the Kim Muir. Those performances proved that the two Gigginstown horses were on an upward curve, but they also added ballast to the strength of the form of the Ten Up Chase.

In Monday’s Irish Grand National, Lion Na Bearnai carried 10st 5lb (10st 8lb less Andrew Thornton’s 3lb allowance, which he wasn’t allowed to claim in the Ten Up Chase), Four Commanders carried 10st 9lb, and Start Me Up carried 10st 6lb less Ben Dalton’s 7lb claim (Ruby Walsh had ridden him in the Ten Up Chase).

So how do you think they bet? (a) 8/1 each of three, (b) 16/1 each of three, or (c) 8/1 Four Commanders, 16/1 Start Me Up and 33/1 Lion Na Bearnai?

Easy now, isn’t it?

Davy delight

It has taken a while but, unless he does a Devon Loch on it, it looks like Davy Russell is finally going to land the jockeys’ championship that his talent deserves this year.

When Davy rode Dedigout to land the Irish Field (ahem) Handicap Hurdle at Fairyhouse on Tuesday, not only was he notching up his 100th winner in Ireland for the season (just the second time he has done that), but he was also propelling himself 19 clear of Ruby Walsh in the jockeys’ title race. Although Ruby got one back with Vast Consumption on Tuesday, with just 10 race meetings left in the season, Paddy Power are probably paying out by now.

In 2007/08, Davy was beaten by five by Ruby. Last year, he lost out by four to Paul Townend. Indeed, with form figures of 4322222 for the last seven seasons, you would have been forgiven for suggesting that he needed a pair of blinkers. In reality, however, they don’t make them much more genuine than Russell.

The Corkman has never tried to downplay the importance of the championship, he has never tried to present it as largely unimportant because he hadn’t managed to win it. He has never tried to reduce the magnitude of the importance of the championship to him, and that should make his achievement this season all the sweeter.

Ballysax pointer

If Aidan O’Brien happens to be responsible for tomorrow’s Ballysax Stakes winner, you should probably run out and back the victorious horse to win the Epsom Derby or the next couple of Ascot Gold Cups.

Despite Aidan’s apparently progressive interest in the Dante as a Derby trial, the Ballysax-Derrinstown route still appears to be his preferred route for his Derby number ones.

Four of the last five Ballydoyle winners of the Ballysax were Galileo (Derby winner), High Chaparral (Derby winner), Yeats (would have won the Derby for sure had injury not intervened, went back to Epsom and won the Coronation Cup the following year, then proceeded to win four Ascot Gold Cups) and Fame And Glory (finished second in the Derby to Sea The Stars, won the Irish Derby, won the following year’s Coronation Cup, won last year’s Ascot Gold Cup and will probably win a few more).

Soft ground, thank God

So it looks like it’s going to be a soft(ish) ground Grand National, and that doesn’t help my long-held belief that Sunnyhillboy was going to win it. I suppose the fact that JP McManus and Jonjo O’Neill and AP McCoy are focussing on the Gold Cup winner instead is even less helpful.

It will be some achievement if Synchronised does go and win this afternoon’s extravaganza. If he does, not only will he become the smallest horse since Amberleigh House (probably) to do so, and just the second horse in history and the first horse since Golden Miller in 1934 to win the Gold Cup and the Grand National in the same year, but he will also become the first horse since Red Rum in 1974 to shoulder more than 11st 8lb to victory, and just the second horse to do so since Freebooter in 1950.

You wouldn’t put it past him, given his rate of improvement and his connections, but he shouldn’t be the 7/1 favourite. (And he will probably get shorter – see connections above.)


Strange that the horse who went and won the Gold Cup after the Grand National weights were framed is not the best-handicapped horse in this afternoon’s race. He is 7lb well-in, but he is only 7lb well-in, and he already had six of those (pounds) in the bag because he was a highweight before the Gold Cup was run. The handicapper raised him just 1lb for winning the blue riband.

Other horses who are significantly well-in? Weird Al (5lb), Neptune Collonges (5lb), Junior (5lb), Giles Cross (6lb), and the horse who is better handicapped than Synchronised, Sunnyhillboy (10lb). That’s the theory anyway.

© The Irish Field, 14th April 2012