Things We Learned » Good For Auction

Good For Auction

The For Auction Novice Hurdle at Navan often throws up a decent novice hurdler or two in the early part of the season.  The first two home in last year’s renewal were Sizing Rio, who has now won his first two chases and looks like a seriously talented novice chaser, and Ted Veale, who won the County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival two runs later.  And signs are that the first two home in last Sunday’s renewal, Minella Foru and Very Wood, could also be very useful.

First things first, it was not a satisfactory race.  The sedate early pace suited nobody, least of all Very Wood, who made the running, but who jumped noticeably to his right throughout, forsaking valuable ground and momentum.  His trainer Noel Meade said afterwards that he would not be making the running again.

The overall time of the race was poor, the slowest of the four hurdle races run on the day by some way.  It was almost 12 seconds slower than the juveniles’ hurdle, it was over 10 seconds slower than the handicap hurdle, and it was 0.65secs/furlong slower than the Lismullen Hurdle, run over two and a half miles, compared to the standard times for the respective distances.

However, a comparison of the finishing splits for the four races makes for interesting reading.  According to rough hand-timings, all four winners covered the distance from the third last flight to the second last flight in roughly the same time, between 11.1 and 11.6 seconds.  However, from the second last to the last, Minella Foru went almost a second faster than the fastest of the other three, Dedigout in the Lismullen Hurdle, and two seconds faster than the other two winners.  And the Eddie Harty-trained gelding covered the distance from the final flight to the winning line in around 15.4secs, which was around two and a half seconds faster than Dedigout, the fastest of the other three, and almost four seconds faster than Gerdago, winner of the juveniles’ hurdle.

Okay, so the sedate early pace in the race facilitated a relatively fast finish, but the turn of foot that both horses displayed was impressive, and the pair of them came clear of the useful King Of The Picts.

Both Minella Foru and Very Wood were awarded high ratings by when they won their respective four-year-old maidens, the former at Lemonfield, the latter at Oldtown, and both had been impressive winners of their maiden hurdles – Very Wood having also won a bumper – before they squared up against each other on Sunday.  There is a clutch of potentially highly-talented novice hurdlers in Ireland at present this season, and this pair could be up there among the best of them.

Dedigout digs in

Speaking of Dedigout, the performance that the Gigginstown House horse put up in landing that Lismullen Hurdle was impressive.  He was in behind and under pressure from the second last flight, but he picked up impressively for Davy Russell, and he stayed on gallantly to get the better of Mala Beach on the run-in, the pair of them clear of Captain Cee Bee.

It was reasonable to view this race as a sighter for Dedigout in advance of a return to steeplechasing, an exciting second-season chaser.  However, such was the quality of his performance on Sunday, it would not be surprising if Gigginstown and Tony Martin decided to leave him over hurdles, at least for the time being.  This was his first run over the smaller obstacles since he won the Grade 1 Champion Novice Hurdle at the 2012 Punchestown Festival, but he showed no sign of a lack of match practice.  He has now won five of his six races over hurdles, which compares favourably with a record of two for eight over fences.

Gigginstown are not at all averse to allowing their star chasers return to hurdles.  War Of Attrition made hay over hurdles in the spring of 2010, winning two Grade 2 contests four years after he had won the Gold Cup.  And Bog Warrior – trained, like Dedigout, by Tony Martin – won three hurdle races on the spin last season having returned from chasing, and might have gone very close in the World Hurdle had he not fractured his near-fore on the run down the hill.

Dedigout holds entries in the Troytown Chase and the Hennessy Gold Cup but, with an embarrassment of Gigginstown riches in the staying steeplechasing department, it would not be at all surprising if we saw Dedigout race over hurdles again some time soon.  Bookmakers’ quotes about him for the World Hurdle are not outlandish.

Rendezvous Champion class

Melodic Rendezvous deserves to be mentioned as a real live Champion Hurdle contender now after putting up an impressive performance to land the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton on Saturday.

Relatively weak in the market beforehand, probably a manifestation of trainer Jeremy Scott’s view that he would come on for the run, he travelled well through the race, but he lost his footing a little on rounding the home turn.  That could have caused him to lose concentration at the second last flight, which comes up quite quickly after the home turn, and a mistake there allowed Far West steal a break of about four lengths.

The fact that he was able to reel Far West  back in was impressive – Paul Nicholls said afterwards that he really did expect Far West to win, that he thought he had him spot on – as was the willing attitude that he displayed and the time that he clocked, just 0.19secs/furlong slower than standard on ground that was estimated to be riding a fair bit slower than that.

Second to Champagne Fever in the 2012 Punchestown Bumper, Melodic Rendezvous was one of the top novice hurdlers around last season, winning three of his four races, including the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle, and he would have been high in the betting for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle had a poor scope not ruled him out.

The two-mile hurdling division this season is as hot as they make divisions – ref. Hurricane Fly, Our Conor, Jezki, My Tent Or Yours, The New One – but the son of Where Or When should progress for his seasonal debut, his first run since last February, and he deserves his place among them.

Home fires

Home Farm put up a nice performance on his seasonal debut to finish third behind Rupert Lamb and Dylan Ross at Naas last Saturday.  Competing over a wholly inadequate two miles, he travelled well until early in the home straight, when the pacier pair got away from him a little.  However, he stuck to his task well and stayed on again to finish a close-up third, just three and a half lengths behind the winner, and just three parts of a length behind the runner-up.

Arthur Moore’s horse put up a remarkable performance for a six-year-old to finish third in last season’s Irish National.  Indeed, the performance would have been even more remarkable had Moore not won the race two years previously with another six-year-old in Organisedconfusion.  Before Organisedconfusion, you had to go back to Rhyme ‘N Reason in 1985 to find the previous six-year-old to have prevailed in the Easter Monday showpiece.

Home Farm is still lightly-raced – he was having just his fifth ever run over fences on Saturday – and he still has lots of scope for progression.  He could go a fair way beyond his current handicap mark of 142 over staying trips, and he will be of interest in the next staying handicap chase he contests.

Cooper flying

This time last year, Bryan Cooper had no Cheltenham Festival winners, no column in the Racing Post and no ride in the Paddy Power Gold Cup.  The only downside is, you can’t name him as a young rider destined for big things any more.  The big things are already here.

© The Irish Field, 16th November 2013