Things We Learned » Elliott dominant in handicap chases

Elliott dominant in handicap chases

Yet another valuable handicap chase went the way of Gordon Elliott when Ball D’Arc landed the Bar One Racing Dan Moore Memorial Chase at Fairyhouse on Sunday.

That brought to six the number of big handicap chases that Elliott has won since the start of the season.  It started with Lord Scoundrel’s win in the Galway Plate under Donagh Meyler at the end of July, and it continued with Wrath Of Titans in the Kerry National at Listowel in September under Lisa O’Neill.

The run continued with Tiger Roll the Munster National at Limerick in early October, with Donagh Meyler in the saddle again.  Then Empire Of Dirt won the Troytown Chase at Navan in late November under Bryan Cooper, and Noble Endeavor landed the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas for Davy Russell.

Jack Kennedy rode Ball D’Arc on Sunday.  That’s six of the biggest handicap chases that have been run so far this season, six different horses, six different months, five different riders. 

The total prize money that these six wins have amassed of around €450,000 is not inconsiderable, especially when you consider that Elliott’s lead over Willie Mullins in the trainers’ championship is just over €300,000.  Prize money aside, however, it is a seriously impressive achievement.

Ascot sponsors

It has to be disappointing for Ascot that here we are, five weeks after the old Ladbroke Hurdle was run under the Wessex Youth Trust banner, set to witness the staging of the Clarence House Chase, to be run under the banner of another Ascot charity, the Berkshire Community Foundation.

It is four years since this afternoon’s event was known as the Victor Chandler Chase, Sodexo have owned it for the last three renewals, but it is still disappointing that a replacement sponsor could not have been found for a Grade 1 contest, one of the key stepping stones that take the two-mile chase programme from Christmas to the Tied Cottage Chase to the Game Spirit Chase to the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

Hopefully things will change the ABP shackles are removed in April.

Handicap hurdle form strong 

Speaking of the Wessex Youth Trust Handicap Hurdle, the old Ladbroke, the form of this year’s renewal received a nice boost at Kempton on Saturday.

First, Modus, seventh in the Ascot race, 13 lengths behind the winner Brain Power, ran out a good winner of the Lanzarote Hurdle under Barry Geraghty off his Ascot mark of 145, with the handicapper thinking enough of the performance to raise JP McManus’ horse 10lb to a mark of 155.

Then an hour later, Meet The Legend was still in front in the two-mile handicap hurdle and looking set for victory when he crashed out at the final flight, regrettably suffering a fatal injury.

The 13lb by which Brain Power was raised by the handicapper after the Ladbroke sits a little more comfortably now than it did at the time, given last weekend’s events and given how easily he appeared to win that race through the fog.  Also, Nicky Henderson’s horse is only six and he has plenty of scope for further progression.

His new mark of 162 puts him into Champion Hurdle reckoning.  To put it into context, The New One is rated 163, Yanworth is rated 164.  He is a contender all right.

Second first

Any Second Now ran out a game winner of the Sky Bet Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle at Punchestown on Sunday.  It was a help that neither Crack Mome nor Runfordave were overly fluent at the final flight but, watching the race again, it is difficult to argue that the Ted Walsh-trained gelding would not have won anyway, even if the front two had been good at the last.

The Oscar gelding’s win strengthens JP McManus’ hand of juvenile and novice hurdlers further.  Any Second Now obviously surprised many when he won his maiden hurdle at Navan last month on his racecourse debut, given that he was allowed go off at 66/1.  However, while Crack Mome was a odds-on on Sunday, Any Second Now was sent off as second favourite.  His days of flying under the radar are numbered.

It is obviously asking a lot for the latest Moscow Flyer winner to turn out to be as good as recent ones Douvan and Vautour and Min, but you never know.  Any Second Now is two for two, he has yet to be beaten.

Moreover, he finished off his race strongly on Sunday, suggesting that, while he obviously has two-mile pace, and Sunday’s track was tight, he could improve for a step up in trip.  It is correct that he is in the betting for both the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle over two miles and the Neptune over two and a half.

It means that JP McManus has Cheltenham options with his novice hurdlers.  If Any Second Now did run in the Neptune, that would mean that one of the McManus juveniles – Defi Du Seuil or Charli Parcs or Landofhopeandglory – could take his chance in the Supreme.

No juvenile has won the Supreme since Hors La Loi won it in 1999, but only five have tried in the last decade, and Binocular went mighty close to beating fellow JP McManus horse Captain Cee Bee in 2008.  If the owner were to run a juvenile in the Supreme this year, he would be a player all right, in receipt of 8lb from his elders. 

Thought for the week

If you are thinking of selling something for £100 million, something that you really and truly think you should keep, and if you are planning to invest a total of £500 million in the future from funds generated from other unfullyspecified sources, why not keep the thing that you really want to keep – assuming that you really and truly want to keep it – and invest just £400 million in the future?

Alan King speaks a lot of sense.


© The Irish Field, 21st January 2017