Things We Learned » Three to note

Three to note

You could probably fill an eight-page pull-out with horses to follow at this stage of the season, but here are three from this week.

Hidden Cyclone probably put up the best jumping performance of his life in winning at Gowran Park on Saturday. Shark Hanlon’s gelding travelled and jumped well throughout for Andrew McNamara, and it always looked like he was holding the talented Call The Police with a little to spare. He jumped a little to his left, so a return to a left-handed track should bring about even more improvement, and he looked happy bowling along out in front.

This all makes him a live Lexus and Hennessy horse. He could be at his best now if allowed to bowl along, and the smallish fields that those two races often attract could therefore suit him well. He may be dependent on soft ground, so the Leopardstown races may be his races more than the Cheltenham Gold Cup. He is only seven, and it is remarkable to think that this was just his fourth chase. He still has lots of scope for progression.

Thirty-five minutes after Hidden Cyclone’s win, Aupcharlie put up an impressive performance in the beginners’ chase run over the same course and distance. Making his debut over fences, the Willie Mullins-trained gelding jumped well and clocked a good time despite being eased down late on, almost as fast a time as Hidden Cyclone clocked. Third in Cheltenian’s Cheltenham Bumper in 2011, this was his first run since he won his maiden hurdle at Leopardstown last January. He is an interesting novice chaser now, and he should be even better on better ground.

Finally, Cantlow put up a nice performance in finishing second behind Sire De Grugy in a two-mile novices’ chase at Lingfield on Tuesday. The trip should have been too sharp for JP McManus’s horse, and the ground should have been too soft, but he jumped well and stayed on nicely for AP McCoy. Third in last season’s Pertemps Final at the Cheltenham Festival, he is another who should be better on better ground and stepped up in trip, and the JLT Specialty Chase at the Cheltenham Festival is a legitimate long-term target.

Orfevre unlucky again

So it isn’t just in Britain that the stewards give a large slice of benefit-of-doubt to the horse that passes the post first. You can be sure that Japanese correspondent Harry Sweeney has a fully informed view, you can be sure that he has watched the race from every available camera angle, but to this set of eyes (with YouTube as the lone medium) it appeared that the winner, Gentildonna, was locked up between the inside rail and Orfevre with no room to swing as the pair of them closed on the leader with a furlong to run in Sunday’s Japan Cup at Tokyo.

It appeared that, at best, Yasunari Iwata eased Orfevre and the re-instated Kenichi Ikezoe out of his way in order to secure racing room for himself and his filly, but it had to have been difficult to argue in the stewards’ room that the bump did not cost Orfevre – long odds-on for (Unluckiest) Horse of the Year now – the nose by which he was beaten.

Perhaps the fact that the first two home represented the same owner, and the fact that the Quinella or the Bracket Quinella – the most popular bets among Japanese punters – wouldn’t be affected even if placings were to be reversed, convinced the stewards to allow the result stand. Shades of Crimson Embers and Rose Ravine. Dja ne.

Tough game

This game can floor you sometimes, and your heart has to go out to Noel Meade and Go Native’s connections. After putting behind them the disappointment of the 2010 Champion Hurdle, when Go Native was sent off favourite but injured himself in the race, they waited over two and a half years to get their horse back onto the racecourse.

A hugely encouraging run on the flat at Navan was followed by an impressive win under Nina Carberry in a qualified riders’ race at Galway, and then there was that x-rated fall at Punchestown when, you never know, had he pinged the obstacle he just could have beaten Hurricane Fly.

You feared the worst after that fall, but reports from the Meade yard that he was none the worse for it, and that he was possibly on track for this afternoon’s Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle, were received with relief. Regrettably, they were followed a couple of short days later by news of the horse’s fatal injury on the gallops at home. A roller-coaster wouldn’t have a look-in.

Soll chance

One of the most interesting horses in this afternoon’s Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury is Soll. Winner of a point-to-point at Liscarroll in March 2010, and winner of the only race that he contested over hurdles on his only run for John Quinn at Newcastle in January 2011, the son of Presenting shaped like a promising staying chaser in the making when he chased home Son Amix in a beginners’ chase at Punchestown on New Year’s Eve last year on his debut for Willie Mullins.

He built on that promise when he won his beginners’ chase at Down Royal last February, staying on well over two and a half miles on heavy ground to get the better of Harspy Chord – who won his beginners’ chase two weeks later – with the pair of them clear.

He was unfortunate to be brought down by his stable companion Allee Garde when quietly fancied for the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham last March. He was well back in the field at the time, but it was too early in the race to know how he might have fared. The ground was probably faster than ideal for him at Cheltenham anyway. Even though he is a son of Presenting, he seems to enjoy really testing ground, and he should revel in today’s conditions.

He is only seven, he has run just four times under Rules and just three times over fences in his life, and a race like the Hennessy could all be a bit much for him. By the same token, however, there is also a chance that he is thrown in on a mark of 139, which leaves him set to carry 10st and leaves him just 1lb out of the handicap. New trainer Jo Hughes – who trained Caledonia Lady to win at Group 3 race at Sandown in July – reports Soll to be in top form, he has apparently schooled well at Towcester this week, and today’s race has been on her mind for him since she got him. He could easily out-perform odds of 25/1.

Grand National betting

Latest betting on what the 2014 Grand National will be called:

7/2 Qatar Grand National

6/1 Boylesports Inter-National

10/1 Bet with the Tote on your mobile phone Freephone 1800 400 500 Grand National

12/1 32 Red Steeplechase

16/1 Ping Grand National

25/1 RSPCA Champion Hurdle

33/1 Others

© The Irish Field 1st December 2012