Things We Learned » Farges worth following

Farges worth following

Fair play to Tidal Bay for putting it all together in the Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown last Saturday, and fair play to Paul Nicholls for finding racing conditions that suited the old monkey and for engaging, no doubt, in a blend of cajoling and honing and coercing that facilitated Saturday’s performance.

First Champion Hurdles and first Grand Nationals and seventh King Georges and fourth World Hurdles are all very fine, but Nicholls’s skills as a trainer were probably more in evidence in Tidal Bay’s performance on the last day of the season than they had been on any of the other previous 364.

With an eye on the future as opposed to the past, however, Roalco De Farges was probably the most interesting horse in the race. The son of Dom Alco had been on the go for a while, on the last day of a season that had lasted over six months and eight races for him, and he made a fairly significant mistake at the second fence down the back straight final time just as the pace was increasing, yet he still took it up on the run to the third last travelling well, and he would have been an impressive winner of the race but for the presence of the (in hindsight) really well-handicapped winner.

Philip Hobbs’s horse is only seven, he has raced just seven times now over fences, and he has massive scope for progression as a staying chaser next term. The handicapper has raised him just 2lb for this performance, which looks lenient in the extreme.

The Welsh National has been mentioned as a possible target next term, and that makes a lot of sense. His new mark of 136 would see him get into that race in a normal year in the low 10sts. He has won twice at Chepstow, he proved on Saturday that he can handle soft ground and that he can stay the Welsh National trip, and he should be an even stronger horse in seven months’ time.

The Welsh National is a race for young progressive horses – the last eight winners have been eight or younger – with seven-year-olds winning four of those eight (Synchronised was technically eight, but the 2010 renewal was run in January 2011). Hobbs won the Welsh National with Dream Alliance in 2009, who prepped for the race by running well in a three-mile handicap hurdle at Chepstow seven weeks previously, and it wouldn’t be at all surprising if Roalco De Farges were to follow a similar route.

Tote it

From a betting perspective, there should be a strong Tote angle to today’s Qipco 2000 Guineas and a slight Tote angle to tomorrow’s Qipco 1000 Guineas. Never before, since the French were able to bet into the British Group 1 pools, has there been such a strong French involvement in the first Classics, and you think the Irish are patriotic when it comes to betting?

When Makfi won the 2000 Guineas in 2010 at an SP of 33/1, he paid just £12.80 on the Tote. When Special Duty was awarded the 1000 Guineas the following day, she was returned at 9/2, yet she paid just 5/2 on the Nanny Goat. When Natagora won the fillies’ Classic in 2008, she was returned at 11/4, yet paid just £3.20 on the Tote.

Mashoora is no better than 8/1 for the fillies’ race tomorrow, and she is sure to be significantly shorter on the Tote, which provides a slight angle, but the angle in this afternoon’s colts’ race is much more acute.

The first three from the Prix Djebel, French Fifteen, Abtaal and Hermival, are all set to line up today. Between them, at British and Irish bookmakers’ prices, they are taking out over 22% of the market. You can be certain that, with the sheer volume of French money that will be injected into the pool, the percentage that the Djebel Trois take out of the Tote pool will be significantly greater than 22%. Consequently, if you are intending to back a non-French-trained horse in this afternoon’s race, consider backing it on the Tote. Chances are, the Tote return will be greater than the SP, possibly significantly so.

Predictions precarious

Whatever wins this afternoon’s Qipco 2000 Guineas will almost certainly have put up the best performance of his career to date. To that end, an awful lot is going to depend on the progress that each colt has made from two to three. Even warm favourite Camelot will probably have to improve on his Racing Post Trophy run.

Of the seven colts at the head of the market at present, we haven’t seen four of them yet this season. That quartet – Camelot, Born To Sea, Top Offer and Power – have been absent for an average of 215 days. All four were born in March 2009, so that means that we haven’t seen them race for almost 20% of their lives, the most recent 20%, with all the potential for progression that that brings, and that makes predictions quite precarious.

Another match

Despite the clamour for Willie Mullins to aim Quevega at next year’s World Hurdle at Cheltenham, thereby setting up a match with Big Buck’s, instead of allowing her trot around and land a 65th Mares’ Hurdle, the message is clear: it ain’t going to happen boys.

There is a possibility, however, that the mountain could be brought to Mohammad in this instance. Horses being the fragile beasts that horses are and all, it is difficult to make plans for next week not to mind for next year, but, all things being equal, could Paul Nicholls not be coaxed to bring Big Buck’s to Punchestown next April? By then, Andy Stewart’s horse could have won his fifth World Hurdle and his fifth Liverpool Hurdle, Quevega could have won her fifth Mares’ Hurdle, and they could come together in the World Series Hurdle at Punchestown for a duel that would draw headlines and the masses.

Big Buck’s will be 10 next year, Quevega will be nine, so if it doesn’t happen next season, the potential for a box office smash could be lost. Maybe Ladbrokes could get involved, sweeten the proposition, put up a bonus for any horse who wins at Cheltenham and then comes on to win their World Series Hurdle at Punchestown, and Punchestown would surely do whatever needed to be done. They have hosted matches before, you know.

Ten for fun

You’d better act quickly if you haven’t yet entered this year’s Flat Ten To Follow competition. According to some scientific research recently conducted – PhD in Quantum Physics desirable but not essential – your best split is two three-year-old mile colts, two three-year-old middle distance colts, one and a half three-year-old fillies, a half a stayer (and that doesn’t mean a stayer who doesn’t get further than 12 furlongs), two older middle distance horses, a sprinter and an older miler.

Here are mine: Camelot, Born To Sea, Akeed Mofeed, Parish Hall, Maybe, Saddler’s Rock, Cirrus Des Aigles, Planteur, Black Caviar and Frankel. Well, it’s not rocket science. (See above.)

© The Irish Field, 5th May 2012