Things We Learned » Beltor is a big player in the Triumph Hurdle

Beltor is a big player in the Triumph Hurdle

The performance that Beltor put up in winning the Adonis Hurdle at Kempton on Saturday was really quite remarkable. It is rare indeed that you see a horse racing as keenly or as freely through the early stages of a race as Beltor did, and coming away from his rivals from the final flight with ease, but that is what Beltor did.

Robert Stephens’ horse wanted to go faster than Tom O’Brien wanted him to go for about a mile and five and a half furlongs on Saturday. Really. He didn’t drop the bridle until they straightened up for home and his rider allowed him stride on. You expected that he would flounder at that point, that his early exertions would take their toll. On the contrary, however, he cruised into the lead from hard-ridden rivals, and cleared away on the run-in under just a hands-and-heels ride.

The opposition wasn’t bad either. Runner-up All Yours, a half-brother to County Hurdle and Grade 1 winner Lac Fontana, had won his maiden on his previous run by 10 lengths, while third-placed Bivouac won his first two hurdle races since he arrived in Britain, and he ran well for a long way behind Peace And Co and Karezak in the Grade 2 Finesse Hurdle at Cheltenham at the end of January.

The Adonis Hurdle is not far behind Leopardstown’s Spring Juvenile Hurdle as a Triumph Hurdle pointer these days. Between the two races, they have supplied the last five winners of the Cheltenham race, and if Binocular had run in the Triumph Hurdle instead of in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 2008, they probably would have supplied six of the last seven.

Beltor is 8/1 best-price for the Triumph Hurdle. Petite Parisienne, winner of the Spring Hurdle, is 10/1. Kalkir, runner-up in the Spring Hurdle, is 20/1. That’s just over 3/1 that one of them wins it. Statistically, that’s a good price.

Tycoon Prince could be very good

Gordon Elliott has always said that Tycoon Prince would not be going to Cheltenham this season. He said it after the Gigginstown House horse won at Fairyhouse in November, and he said it again after he beat Up For Review in an intriguing match at Naas on Sunday.

The Naas race was undoubtedly a good race, despite the paucity of runners. Up For Review was up there towards the top of the Willie Mullins Cheltenham Bumper team, he had looked good in winning his bumper at Leopardstown over Christmas, and he set a good solid pace.

Tycoon Prince is a year younger, he was conceding 2lb to his rival and he was weaker in the market, but he travelled nicely in the slipstream of the leader, and he picked up really well for Nina Carberry on the near side to catch and pass his rival, and come away up the hill.

Tycoon Prince is a half-brother to Puffin Billy and Zuzka, and he is out of a half-sister to The Railway Man. He is built like a chaser and, while he will probably jump hurdles next season, it is as a potential steeplechaser that he excites most.

Rocky rocks to top of list

If you have a Grand National shortlist, Rocky Creek has to be near the top of it now. (And if you don’t have one, it might be a good idea to start one, and to put him at the top of it.)

Paul Nicholls’ horse put up a scintillating display in winning the BetBright Chase at Kempton on Saturday. Kept wide throughout by Sam Twiston-Davies, he jumped well, he travelled like the most likely winner from a long way out, and he won with more in hand than the official six-length winning margin. The race may have fallen apart a little – Tap Night and Fox Appeal fell, and Easter Day was pulled up – but runner-up Le Reve was a potentially well-handicapped progressive horse going into the race, third-placed Bally Legend won the race last year off just a 2lb lower mark, and the winning time was good, the only time on the day that dipped below Racing Post par. It was a rock solid performance.

The handicapper raised Rocky Creek 9lb for the performance to a mark of 163, which was not harsh, you couldn’t have complained if he had got 11lb or 12lb. However, because the Grand National is a (very) early closing race, he gets to race off his old mark of 154. Also, unique to the Grand National, he does not even have to carry a winner’s penalty. He will probably be the best-handicapped horse in the race.

Importantly, he ran a cracker to finish fifth in the race last year as an eight-year-old. He raced prominently from early before he faded from the second last fence, but he jumped the fences really accurately, and he didn’t check out tamely.

He will be much better-equipped for the rigours of the National this year as a nine-year-old. Bindaree is still the last eight-year-old to win the National, and Bindaree was 13 years ago now. Also, he was just the third eight-year-old to win it since Red Rum won his first in 1973. (The last seven-year-old was during the War.)

Remember Hedgehunter ran a cracker in the race as an eight-year-old in 2004 before falling at the last, a tired horse. Then Willie Mullins’ horse went back as a nine-year-old in 2005 and won it doing handsprings. Rocky Creek could be this year’s Hedgehunter, and the 14/1 at which you can still back him looks big.

Rajdhani rolling now

Speaking of the BetBright Chase and Aintree, Rajdhani Express ran a good trial for the Topham Chase.

The intention beforehand was apparently to get him to finish in the first four so that he would be qualified to run in the National, but it could be a blessing in full view that he could finish only seventh, because he simply didn’t stay three miles. And that curious notion that a good two-and-a-half-miler is what you want for a four-and-a-half-mile chase has gone out with the Telex machine.

The Waley-Cohens’ horse jumped well, and he travelled well into the home straight, he and the winner the only two horses still on the bridle. From there he faded as the stamina well ran dry. Back over two miles and five and a half furlongs, however, at Aintree, over the Aintree fences, and with Sam Waley-Cohen, dynamite over the Aintree fences, on his back, he could be some spin in Aintree’s truncated Grand National. And the fact that the handicapper dropped him 2lb for Saturday’s run is no hindrance.

Exchange rates

If you are going to Cheltenham with a bagful of euro, it may be that you have backed a loser before the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, which is a fair achievement (unless you back good-to-firm every year at 8/1).

In early March last year, one euro got you about 82p of the Queen’s money. Interestingly, it would have got you about 84p by late March last year, which is perhaps largely due to the 12 Irish winners at Cheltenham. Or perhaps not.

At the start of March this year, one euro will buy you just around 73p. (Blame Greece – everyone else does.) Which is all very fine if you are betting in euro (paid in euro), but which isn’t very fine at all if you are buying a round in the Queen’s on Tuesday night.

Also, do remember, if you are betting in sterling, and you want to have the equivalent of €10,000 on Douvan in the opener, you only have to ask for £12,775 to £7,300, not £14,350 to £8,200.

© The Irish Field, 28th February 2015