Things We Learned » Smad in right place now

Smad in right place now

So Smad Place is on track now for the Gold Cup after his win in the BetBright Trial Chase at Cheltenham last Saturday.  And that is as it should be.

All the talk of the Ryanair Chase was strange anyway.  Alan King’s horse is a stayer.  He finished third in the World Hurdle in 2012 as a five-year-old and he finished third in the World Hurdle again in 2013 as a six-year-old.  The first race that he won over fences was a three-mile chase at Exeter in November 2013, and he was beaten a neck by O’Faolains Boy in the RSA Chase later than season.

On top of all that, he won the Hennessy Gold Cup earlier this season.  The Hennessy is run over three miles and two and a half furlongs, and he won it with his relentless galloping and jumping, ridden aggressively by Wayne Hutchinson, seeing out the distance well.

He has run over a distance short of three miles over fences just twice in his life, once on his chasing bow at Huntingdon in November 2013 and once on his debut this season.  Both were easers-into-the-seasoners.

You have to think that the Ryanair talk was spawned by an acceptance that, after the King George, when he finished 16 lengths behind Cue Card and Vautour, he wouldn’t be able to beat that pair in the Gold Cup.  But, as we know now for sure, he underperformed in the King George under passive tactics.

Two miles and four and a half furlongs was never going to be his thing, and he deserves his place in the Gold Cup mix.

King for a day

Speaking of Alan King, he had a day of days on Saturday.  The Barbury Castle trainer had four other winners on the day as well as Smad Place, including the Sky Bet Chase, the feature race at Doncaster, with Ziga Boy, and another valuable handicap at Cheltenham with Annacotty.

But even Smad Place’s win was probably trumped by Yanworth’s in the Grade 2 Classic Hurdle.  Despite the fact that JP McManus’ horse had shown so much pace over two miles, despite the fact that he was unbeaten in three runs over hurdles at the trip, Barry Geraghty was adamant that he could be even better over two and a half.  And that proved to be the case.

Yanworth could hardly have been more impressive.  He travelled supremely well under a smooth, patient ride from Geraghty, he joined the front rank on the run to the last and he cleared away on the run-in under no more than a squeeze from his rider.

He came clear from good horses.  Runner-up Shantou Village was unbeaten going into Saturday’s race, he had won a point-to-point, a bumper, a novices’ hurdle and a Grade 2 novices’ hurdle by 15 lengths from Champers On Ice, who finished third on Saturday and who had won twice in the interim.

Also, Yanworth’s time was good, and he could have gone faster.  There is no telling how good he could be.

More to come from Kate

Bonny Kate was impressive in landing the Grand National Trial at Punchestown on Sunday.  Setting off in front, the Noel Meade-trained mare travelled and jumped well for Sean Flanagan the whole way, and she found plenty when the progressive Baie Des Iles challenged her on the run to the final fence.  She came away from the runner-up, and the front two pulled well clear of some useful rivals.  It was a really likeable performance.

Initial reaction may have been to think of what might have been.  Patricia Hunt’s mare missed out on getting into the Thyestes Chase two weeks ago by one.  She was number 19 on a list of 18.  The Thyestes Chase – in which her older full-brother Mala Beach finished second – is a €100,000 race, it is worth €60,000 to the winner, the Grand National Trial is worth €20,000 to the winner.  Go figure.

It may not have been that simple, however.  For starters, the Thyestes is obviously a more competitive race.  The Beneficial mare appeared to enjoy herself, popping away in front on Sunday, she may not have had it all to herself in the Thyestes, with 17 rivals as opposed to eight, and over a distance that would have been three furlongs shorter.

Also, if she had got into the Thyestes as a reserve, she would have been 5lb out of the handicap, she would have raced off an effective mark of 130, not 125, and that would obviously have made things a little more difficult.  The handicapper raised her 12lb for Sunday’s win to a mark of 137, so it is logical to assume that she still would have been well-handicapped on a mark of 130, but this is not a game of weights and measures, you don’t know how things would have panned out.

Maybe this way was best anyway.  She was having just her fourth run over fences on Sunday, and she unseated early on her chasing bow, so it was effectively just her third.  She had to have had a good experience, and she should come on for it.

Meade mentioned the National Hunt Chase and the Irish Grand National as possible targets afterwards.  It is a pity that Easter is so early this year, it means that she cannot contest both, like the last two Irish National winners, Shutthefrontdoor and Thunder And Roses, did.  Either race is a legitimate target.  We probably haven’t got to the bottom of Bonny Kate yet.

Flemenstar still high-class

Flemenstar is still high-class.  He may not be as good as he was when he was winning John Durkan Chases or going close in Lexus Chases and Hennessy Gold Cups, but he is 11 now, and he is still capable of a high level of performance.

There was a sense after he won the Paddy Power iPhone App Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas that he was gifted the race, in that Un De Sceaux departed at the second last fence when travelling like a winner, and that Simply Ned was consequently left in front from a long way out, a sitting duck, ripe for mugging.

Even so, Flemenstar showed a lot of his old alacrity to get up and beat Nicky Richards’ horse by a length that day, and he clocked a good time, he went faster than Racing Post par.  He again went faster than Racing Post par when he finished second to Felix Yonger in the Tied Cottage Chase at Punchestown on Sunday.

For a horse who was beaten three parts of a length in a Lexus Chase over three miles as a seven-year-old, Stephen Curran’s horse is showing lots of pace over two miles now as an 11-year-old, but he raced on Sunday as if a step up in trip could be the thing for him now.  It is interesting that he holds an entry in the Ascot Chase over two miles and five furlongs in two weeks’ time.  He might be under-rated across the water if he makes the trip for that contest.


So Djakadam is a progressive young staying chaser who won the Durkan Chase on his debut this season, who fell in the Cotswold Chase, who is on track for the Gold Cup and who is trained by a member of the Mullins family.

Okay, so the prep race at Cheltenham wasn’t sponsored by BetBright in 1986 but, isn’t any of this ringing a bell?

© The Irish Field, 6th February 2016