Things We Learned » Novice chasers

Novice chasers

The novice chasing class of 2012/13 are winning their beginners’ chases and lining up. Oscars Well was fairly flawless in recording a facile success over useful performers Darwins Fox and Plan A at Punchestown on Wednesday. Rated 160 and a dual Grade 1 winner as a novice over hurdles, it is remarkable that this was Jessica Harrington’s gelding’s first success since he won the Deloitte Hurdle at Leopardstown in February 2011 eight runs and 20 months ago.

It is interesting that his trainer suggested after Wednesday’s race that the Drinmore Chase over two and a half miles was next on his agenda as opposed to the Craddockstown or the Independent Newspapers Chase over two. Whatever route he takes, he is a really exciting prospect now over fences.

Lyreen Legend jumped really well and was most impressive in winning his beginners’ chase at Galway on Monday, the beginners’ chase that has been won by China Rock, Jessies Dream and Last Instalment in the last three years, while the still unbeaten Buckers Bridge dug deep to get the better of fellow young pretender Sword Of Destiny at Punchestown on Wednesday.

However, another Jessica Harrington representative, Jenari, may have gone a little under the radar in winning his beginners’ chase at Naas on Monday. Jenari didn’t have stable companion Oscars Well’s obvious class over hurdles, he didn’t make it to Cheltenham last March, but he won the Grade 2 two-and-a-half-mile novices’ hurdle at the Fairyhouse Easter Festival last March (a race in which Lyreen Legend finished third) and he was travelling well when he departed at the third last flight in the Grade 1 two-and-a-half-mile novices’ hurdle at Punchestown.

JP McManus’s gelding was settled well out the back on his chasing bow on Monday, but he jumped and travelled well. No better than ninth rounding the home turn, he jumped the last two fences accurately, and he stayed on really well up the run-in, under just a hands-and-heels ride from Robbie Power, to get up and beat the talented Dylan Ross by a length, with Mount Benbulben and Far Away So Close back in third and fourth.

He seems to handle any ground, he has the pace for two miles, but he stays two and a half well. He is only five, he has huge scope for progression, and he appears to have a lovely attitude. He is another really exciting recruit to the larger obstacles.

Trainers on top

Jessica Harrington is just one of several trainers who are going through something of a purple patch these days. Jenari was one of three winners that the trainer sent out on Monday, with Oscars Well on Wednesday bringing her total – before racing at Down Royal yesterday – to four winners from 11 runners this week.

Dessie Hughes’s flying start to the season continues. Four winners from six runners at Galway and Naas on Monday and Deal Done’s victory at Clonmel on Thursday brought his total number of winners for the season up to yesterday morning to 24, which is just 10 short of last year’s total for the entire season.

Coincidentally, Henry de Bromhead ended last season on the same number of winners as Hughes, and the Waterford trainer is another who has his team in fine form at this stage of the season, as evidenced by a double at Punchestown on Wednesday, and by the fact that all seven of his runners between last Sunday and yesterday had finished in the first four.

Noel Meade had just one winner between Monday and yesterday, but a remarkable seven of his 10 beaten horses finished second. Mouse Morris had four winners from 12 runners since 18th October and Tom Mullins has had two winners from just eight runners in the same period.

Of course, it is Tom’s brother Willie who continues to set the standard, with four winners from 14 runners between 18th October and yesterday, leaving him clear at the top of the trainers’ championship. And we’ve only just crept into November.

Absent champ

In a way, it is a pity that Joseph O’Brien and Pat Smullen are not going to be at Leopardstown tomorrow to scrap it out for the jockeys’ championship into the dying embers of the season. It has been a fantastic tussle between uncle and nephew from a long way out, an intriguing undercurrent to the 2012 Irish flat racing season, and Smullen’s valiant late effort – three winners from six rides at Leopardstown last Saturday – saw him come up just three short. It was a huge effort from both riders, both from the Kevin O’Ryan stable – a multiple champion and a new champion. It’s a good story.

With both riders flying the Irish flag at Santa Anita this weekend, and Smullen carrying the tricolour on to Melbourne on Tuesday, the jockeys’ awards will have to be confirmed in absentia at Leopardstown tomorrow, and that is not ideal. The authorities got it right changing the end of the season from Dundalk on a frost-bitten December evening to November Handicap day at Leopardstown on a Sunday afternoon, but surely a clash with the Breeders’ Cup could be avoided, in order to circumvent the very eventuality that has occurred this year. Next year, the Breeders’ Cup is on 1st and 2nd November.

King’s Derby hopes

Kingsbarns looked good in winning the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster last Saturday, leaving several rivals who could themselves turn out to be top class three-year-olds in his wake.

As well as the impression that the son of Galileo (are they all?) created as a leading Derby aspirant, statistically it makes sense that he heads the market for the 2013 Derby. Seven of the previous 11 Racing Post Trophy winners since the turn of the millennium went on to win Group 1 races as older horses. Six of them won a Group 1 race as a three-year-old, six of them won a Group 1 race over a mile and a half, and four of them won the Epsom Derby.

Moreover, of the four Aidan O’Brien-trained winners during that period, two of them won the Derby, one of them won the Guineas, one of them won the St Leger and one of them missed most of his three-year-old season, but came back to win the Coronation Cup as a four-year-old and as a five-year-old. These are strong statistics.

Euro smash

According to best prices available with European bookmakers, it is around even money that a European horse will win the Breeders’ Cup Turf this evening, around 8/11 that a European horse will win the Mile and around 4/6 that a European horse win the Juvenile Turf, and that suggests that it should be well worthwhile tuning in to Santa Anita this evening. However, if you are intent on backing European horses, it should prove best, in the main, to ask your bookmakers for local Tote odds. It could also prove prudent to have a small saver on ‘no more European winners’ if you can get 11/1 or better this morning.

© The Irish Field, 3rd November 2012