Things We Learned » Buckers back

Buckers back

It was great to see Buckers Bridge bounce back to form in the Flyingbolt Novice Chase on a top class card at Navan on Tuesday.

Winner of his only point-to-point and unbeaten in two runs in bumpers, Henry de Bromhead went what is commonly referred to as the Florida Pearl route with the son of Pelder: straight from bumpers to steeplechases without wasting time over those inconsequential hurdles.

He was probably a little fortunate to beat Sword Of Destiny in his beginners’ chase at Punchestown in October, he probably would have finished second had the Noel Meade-trained gelding not made a horrendous mistake at the final fence, but the Gigginstown horse proved the merit of that form by running out a decisive winner of his own beginners’ chase at Navan a month later, beating another de Bromhead horse in Darwins Fox into second place.

Buckers Bridge disappointed on his subsequent run behind Arvika Ligeonniere in the Drinmore Chase at Fairyhouse in early December, but that run was simply too bad to be true.  Perhaps the really testing ground was his undoing, perhaps the race came up too quickly after he and Sword Of Destiny had gone the full 12 rounds at Punchestown.  Given a nice break by his trainer after that, we didn’t see him in public until he appeared at Navan Tuesday.

There was a lot to like about Tuesday’s performance.  He travelled well through the race and his jumping was really good.  It appeared as if Twinlight was travelling better going to the second last fence and, when Willie Mullins’ horse went a half a length up after the last, he looked home for all money.  However, Buckers Bridge found plenty inside the final 150 yards to overhaul a highly talented rival who wasn’t stopping, displaying a cocktail of stamina and willingness that will be a massive asset as he steps up in class again.

Buckers Bridge is only seven and this was just his third run over fences, so he has buckets of scope for progression.  There is no telling how high he can go now.  It is interesting that he is entered in the Jewson Chase at Cheltenham – a race that owner Alan Potts’ Aupcharlie also has as an option – but not in the RSA Chase.  He should stay further in time, but two and a half miles may be far enough for him for now and, if he does make the trip to Cheltenham next month, he would be a player all right.

Mullins head-scratcher

It is going to be fascinating to see how Willie Mullins divides up his novice hurdlers and novice chasers at Cheltenham.  You could do up a flow chart with implied dependencies, construct a case for several different scenarios.

Start with the novice chasers: Arvika Ligeonniere for the Arkle, that has always been the plan.  Aupcharlie for the Jewson, Boston Bob perhaps for the RSA Chase, maybe Back In Focus and Vesper Bell for the National Hunt Chase.  Boston Bob and Back In Focus are both owned by Graham Wylie, so they will probably be kept apart.  Maybe one of them could run in the Jewson and the other in the RSA Chase, but they both major on stamina, so that plan may not play completely to their respective strengths.

Novice hurdlers: Un Atout for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, maybe Mozoltov as well, maybe Pique Sous.  Pont Alexandre for the Neptune, Ballycasey for the Albert Bartlett, maybe Inish Island.  So where does that leave Champagne Fever?  The Neptune over an extended two and a half miles is probably the right race for him, and if he wasn’t running in the Neptune you would probably choose the Albert Bartlett over three miles instead of the Supreme over two (ref. Majoring on Stamina, above), but he, like Pont Alexandre and Ballycasey, is owned by Susannah Ricci, so it makes sense to run the three of them in three different races.  And Champagne Fever did show plenty of pace to win the Deloitte Hurdle over two and a quarter miles, so you never know.

Lots can happen between now and 12th March, it is naïve to think that every intended runner at Cheltenham at present will make it to the races, so you tread on eggshells for the next 17 days and you plan.  Pretend that you are Willie Mullins, what would you do?  It’s like playing Racehorse Manager on X-Box.

Hurricane Fly for the Champion Hurdle.  Start with that one.

Tent for Supreme

Fair play to JP McManus and Nicky Henderson for announcing as early as they did that their hugely exciting Betfair Hurdle winner My Tent Or Yours will, all going well, run in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham and not in the Champion.  Keep novices to the restricted pool of novice races.  The open waters can wait.

As well as pinning their green and gold colours to the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle mast, the announcement was also an indirect positive for Binocular in the context of this year’s Champion Hurdle.  The 2010 champion could be the forgotten horse of the 2013 Champion.

Oaksey cracker

Perhaps it is because this year’s renewal will be the inaugural renewal under the John Oaksey banner (inspired move by Cheltenham, by the way, to name the amateur riders’ race after the late noble lord), but the 2013 National Hunt Chase is shaping up to be a real cracker.

It did lose one of its luminaries during the week when Paul Nicholls confirmed that, if Rocky Creek is to run at the Cheltenham Festival, it will be in the RSA Chase, not the four-miler, but he still leaves a high-class potential line-up in his wake.

Whichever one of the Wylie/Mullins pair – Boston Bob or Back In Focus – that ultimately lines up will provide a touch of class.  Harry Topper is a hugely exciting horse of Kim Bailey’s who is three for three over fences and about whom they are speaking in revered terms.  Rival D’Estruval got to within eight lengths of one-time Gold Cup hope Bold Sir Brian on his penultimate run and won his last race by a distance.  Goulanes is unbeaten under rules and won a Grade 2 race on his chase debut last time.

Add in other potentials like exciting Tommy Whittle Chase runner-up Merry King, Dr PJ Moriarty Chase close-up fourth Lyreen Legend and Classic Chase runner-up Godsmejudge and, if you were thinking of running your horse in the four-miler because it might be easier to win than the RSA Chase, then probably best to think again.

So obvious

Question: What horse has now won four times from four attempts over two miles, his latest win in a Grade 2 contest, and won just twice (his maiden hurdle and a three-horse race for which he was sent off the 2/5 favourite) from eight attempts over distances in excess of two miles?

Answer: So Young.

Conclusion: He might just be a two-miler after all.

© The Irish Field, 23rd February 2013