Things We Learned » Ivanovich could be the real deal

Ivanovich could be the real deal

There was an awful lot to like about Ivanovich Gorbatov’s victory in the juveniles’ maiden hurdle at Leopardstown on Sunday.

For starters, there was the visual impression that JP McManus’ horse created.  He travelled well for Barry Geraghty and he jumped really well for a debutant.  He moved up on the outside of Let’s Dance on the run to the final flight, jumped the obstacle well and picked up impressively on the run-in to come away from Willie Mullins’ filly.

There was substance.  Let’s Dance is a highly regarded filly.  She was favourite for the Triumph Hurdle in most lists on Sunday morning, before her Irish debut, and she was sent off the odds-on favourite for Sunday’s race.  She hails from a top yard, it is probable that the confidence in her is not misplaced, and she finished seven lengths clear of the third horse.

The winning time was impressive.  There were four hurdle races run over two miles on the day, and the juveniles’ hurdle was the fastest of them.  It was 3.4 seconds faster than the Grade 1 novices’ hurdle, 6.9 seconds faster than the maiden hurdle and a full seven seconds faster than the handicap hurdle.  So it was the first race of the day, it may have been on the best of the ground, but it was still an impressive time from a juvenile making his debut over hurdles.

Finally, there is the back story.  Ivanovich Gorbatov was very good on the flat.  He won two of his three races, both his races as a three-year-old, and he achieved a handicap rating of 105.  That is a high rating for a three-year-old after just three runs.  He was progressive, if he had remained on the flat it is probable that he would have gone even higher than 105.

He is trained by Aidan O’Brien, he is ridden by Barry Geraghty and he is owned by JP McManus.  It’s all positive.  The 10/1 and 12/1 that they offered for the Triumph Hurdle immediately after the race was obviously too big, but even the 7/1 that is freely available now is big enough.

Champion Chasers thin on the ground

Genuine Champion Chase contenders are difficult to find these days.  Take Un De Sceaux out of the equation, and it is a division that lacks strength in depth.

It is unfortunate that Un De Sceaux fell at the second last fence in the Paddy Power iPhone App Chase.  If he had stood up, it is difficult to argue that he would not have been an apt winner of the race (So Quick, So Easy).  By now, he would probably be an odds-on shot for the Champion Chase.

That’s the thing about the top two-mile chasers though: they are fast and fluent at their fences, and that can border on perilous.  They need to be fast at their fences if they are to be king of National Hunt’s sprint division, and Un De Sceaux is.  Willie Mullins’ horse remains the stand-out two-mile chaser.

Outside of Un De Sceaux, the division lacks solidity.  Sprinter Sacre and Sire De Grugy fought out the finish of the Desert Orchid Chase.  Nicky Henderson’s horse came out on top, but he might not have if Sire De Grugy had jumped the final fence more fluently.  However, it is easy to argue that both horses, both former champions, both now 10 years old, are not quite as good as they once were.

The time that they clocked was over two and a half seconds slower than the time that the novices clocked over the same course and distance in the Wayward Lad Chase 35 minutes earlier.  Put that with the fact that the Tingle Creek Chase was run in a time that was over five seconds slower than the time that Wayward Lad winner Ar Mad clocked in winning the Henry VIII Chase on the same card, and the two-mile division in Britain is not looking strong.

Dodging Bullets hasn’t run since he won the Champion Chase last March, Simonsig is fragile, Uxizandre is still on the easy list and Vibrato Valtat is probably not good enough over two miles.  Sizing Granite will be better on better ground than he was at Leopardstown on Sunday, and he remains a lively outsider.

Game of two halves

Gordon Elliott probably went home after racing on Sunday, at half-time in Leopardstown’s four-day Christmas Festival, no winners on the board, and thought about what might have been.

It wasn’t that the horses were running poorly.  On the contrary, he had had two winners at Down Royal on St Stephen’s Day, and there had been close calls.  Tombstone just couldn’t catch Long Dog in the Grade 1 Future Champions Novice Hurdle, Ucello Conti had looked a likely winner when he hit the front at the final fence in the Paddy Power Chase, and then there was Don Cossack.  If he had landed upright at the second last fence in the King George, given how that race panned out, it is not stretching it to say that it is probable that he would have won.

Things changed for Elliott in the second half however.  Monday started with Ball D’Arc’s win in the maiden hurdle at Limerick, and it continued with Prince Of Scars’ win in the Grade 1 Square Financial Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown.  Then on Tuesday, No More Heroes stepped forward again to win the Grade 1 Neville Hotels Chase, and Squouateur landed the novices’ handicap hurdle.  The half-time team-talk obviously worked.

 Jockey bookings

There were clues in them thar jockey bookings for the Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle on Sunday.  Bryan Cooper chose to ride Tombstone in front of the other Gigginstown House horse Petit Mouchoir, while Ruby Walsh chose Long Dog in preference to the other three Willie Mullins horses, Bachasson, Petit Mouchoir and Bleu Et Rouge.  So Long Dog won, beating Tombstone into second place, with Petit Mouchoir back in third.  Easy game this.

Good beginnings

The beginners’ chase that Zabana won at Leopardstown on Monday has a fairly illustrious roll of honour, including, as it does, Gold Cup and RSA Chase winner Lord Windermere, Gold Cup runner-up and John Durkan and Thyestes Chase winner Djakadam, and Tied Cottage Chase winner and Ryanair Chase runner-up Hidden Cyclone.

Zabana put up a really likeable performance in winning this year’s renewal, Andrew Lynch’s horse travelled and jumped well for Davy Russell and won nicely in a good time.  He is only six, this was his chasing debut, and he is interesting.  Second in the Coral Hurdle at Cheltenham last March, he could be a horse for the JLT Chase this year.

© The Irish Field, 2nd January 2016