Things We Learned » Bumper crop

Bumper crop

Curley Bill’s win in the bumper at Downpatrick on Wednesday was just another reminder of the strength in-depth that Noel Meade has among his bumper horses. The Meath trainer has had 20 runners in bumpers this season so far, and seven of them have won. That’s a strike rate of 35%. The form of his last seven runners in bumpers reads 3121131.

Of all of the Meade bumper horses that we have seen so far this term, Owen Mc and Ned Buntline stand out. The former was really impressive in winning at Fairyhouse on his racecourse debut 10 days ago, travelling well in rear before circling his field and showing an impressive turn of foot when Nina Carberry gave him a squeeze to come right away from the well-backed Tony Martin newcomer Quickpick Vic, with the pair of them clear.

While it looks like Owen Mc is going to continue down the bumper route for now, Ned Buntline could be jumping hurdles before too long. JP McManus’s gelding, runner-up to Jezki in the four-year-old bumper at Leopardstown’s Irish Champion Hurdle meeting last January on his only previous run, breezed to a facile victory at Naas last Saturday. His trainer reported that he had strengthened up considerably since his debut 10 months ago, and he is a hugely exciting prospect.

Winder wonder

Dylan Ross was impressive in getting off the mark over fences at the third time of asking in a beginners’ chase at Navan on Sunday (the beginners’ chase in which Bog Warrior beat Flemenstar last year), but there was a lot to like as well about the performance that Lord Windermere put up in chasing him home.

Dr Ronan Lambe’s horse’s jumping was accurate and fluent, he was clever at the last three fences in the back straight when he got in a little tight, and he was straight as an arrow over all his fences. He pricked his ears when he struck the front on the run to the final fence and, if he hadn’t made his only mistake at that obstacle, he would have got closer to the winner than he did. As it was, he kept on really well after Dylan Ross had skipped past, going down by less than two lengths in the end.

This was a fine performance from the Jim Culloty-trained gelding on his seasonal and chasing bow. A son of Oscar, he was a high-class novice hurdler last season, but he is built to jump fences, and he does that really well on this evidence. He handles soft ground well and, although his best form over hurdles was over the minimum trip, he is built like a staying chaser, and there is a chance that there is significant improvement forthcoming as he gains in experience and steps up in distance. Rated 135 over hurdles, he could surpass that rating over fences by a fair way.

Star performance

Speaking of Flemenstar, it was difficult not to be impressed with the performance that Peter Casey’s horse put up in beating Big Zeb and Foildubh in the Fortria Chase 35 minutes before that beginners’ chase.

It was a pity that Realt Dubh made a bad mistake at the fifth fence, a mistake which more or less ended his winning chance, and Big Zeb can’t be the Champion Chase hero force of old at the age of 11. However, Colm Murphy’s horse still retains plenty of ability and, in going for his fourth straight win in the Fortria, you can be sure that he wouldn’t have been that far off peak fitness.

Flemenstar probably wasn’t at his peak for his seasonal debut (80%, Casey said afterwards), his record on his debut before Sunday read U42, but he impressed once again with the manner in which he travelled and jumped, and with his race-winning surge when Big Zeb and Foildubh challenged him at the third last fence.

We still don’t know if he will stay three and a quarter miles, but he stays two and a half miles well and he is a full-brother to Barafundle, a three-mile hurdler, from the family of Carvill’s Hill, who was obviously top class and who had the stamina to win a Welsh National. He has every chance of staying three miles at least.

His Powers Gold Cup win proved that he can handle good ground, and there is every chance that he is probably still improving. One of the most exciting novice chasers around last term, all things being equal, the sky is the limit. The more you think about it, the more that odds of 9/1 about him for the Gold Cup look more than fair.

Paddy class

This afternoon’s renewal of the Paddy Power Gold Cup is one of the classiest renewals in the history of the race. Grands Crus, Al Ferof, Walkon and Forpadydeplasterer are Grade 1 winners, Divers, Finger Onthe Pulse and Hunt Ball are Cheltenham Festival winners, Quantitativeeasing is a December Gold Cup winner and Calgary Bay is a Great Yorkshire Chase winner.

No fewer than eight of the 20 runners are rated 155 or higher, which is impressive for this race. That compares with just two horses rated 155 or higher in last year’s renewal, three in 2010, one in 2009, two in 2008, one in 2007 and none in 2006, when the highest-rated horse going into the race was the 149-rated Taranis. Chances are that whatever wins today’s race will either have been exceptionally well-handicapped (like Walkon or Triolo D’Alene potentially) or up to King George standard (like Grands Crus or Al Ferof). Potentially.

Purchasing power

Things you can buy for £125,000 (€155,000):

• One 3,500 square-foot, eight-bedroom (five en-suite) detached house just outside Tuam

• 1,763 barrels of oil

• 571 Sharp internet 32” televisions

• One new Ferrari 458 Italia

• 457 iPad Minis

• 9,166 shares in Facebook

• One visit to Frankel

© The Irish Field, 17th November 2012