Things We Learned » Bellshill impressive

Bellshill impressive

Bellshill was really impressive in winning the Grade 2 Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse on Saturday. 

Willie Mullins’ horse travelled well through his race and his jumping was superb.  He gained ground on his rivals at most of his fences.  He moved to the front at the second last fence and, although he appeared to idle on the run-in, he left the impression that he was winning with plenty in hand.

The winning time was not overly impressive, but the visual evidence was.  He could hardly have been more impressive in beating A Genie In Abottle and Val De Ferbet, both horses rated in the high 140s, giving them both 2lb.

It may appear as if Bellshill has been around for ages, but he is still only eight and this was just his fifth run over fences.  He has now won three of his four completed chases, his only defeat when he has completed coming in the RSA Chase at Cheltenham last March, when he finished third behind King George winner Might Bite and Hennessy runner-up Whisper.  And he proved his class over hurdles, he won the Grade 1 three-mile novice hurdle at the Punchestown Festival, and he finished second, beaten a neck by Ballyoptic, in the Grade 1 Sefton Hurdle at Aintree.

He looks like a Grand National horse now for sure, Irish or English.  Willie Mullins appeared to be favouring the Irish National afterwards, but Aintree must surely also be under consideration. 

The handicapper raised Andrea and Graham Wylie’s horse by 8lb to a mark of 158 after his Bobbyjo win, and that is the mark off which he would race in the Irish National.  By contrast, the Aintree Grand National is closed, no penalties are permissible after the weights have been published, and he has been allotted a rating of 148 for Aintree. 

Moreover, the Aintree Grand National has changed since the modifications.  It used to be that you needed a wizened older warrior for the race.  In recent years, however, the progressive younger horses with potential have come to the fore.  Bellshill would be a major player in the Aintree Grand National if connections decided to allow him take his chance in the race.

Hundred up for Russell

Some 100 minutes before Bellshill won the Bobbyjo Chase, Davy Russell notched his 100th winner of the season when he eased Mitchouka home in the Grade 3 juveniles’ hurdle.

Davy Russell is riding out of his skin.  He had three other rides at Fairyhouse on Saturday, and two of them finished second.  Then he went to Naas on Sunday, and he rode Hardline to win the Grade 2 novices’ hurdle and Doctor Phoenix to win the Grade 3 chase.  That took his total for the season to 102.

The overall stats are seriously impressive.  His total of 102 is 37 more than the total of 65 accumulated by Paul Townend, who sits in second place in the jockeys’ championship, and 40 more than Ruby Walsh, who still sits in third place, despite his injury-enforced absence.  So Russell’s total is 57% greater than that of his closest pursuer. 

He has ridden seven winners and 10 seconds from 31 rides in the last two weeks.  So, almost 55% of the horses he has ridden in that time have finished first or second.

His best season in terms of quantity until now was the 2007/08 season, when he rode 126 winners.  He has broken through the 100 barrier just twice since: in 2011/12 when he rode 104 and in 2012/13 when he rode 103.  He is on track to pass those totals now, and set his sights on his best ever total.  That is well within range.

And it isn’t just about quantity either.  He has won the Grade 1 Drinmore Chase on Death Duty and the Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle on Apple’s Jade and the Grade 1 Ryanair Hurdle on Mick Jazz.  Common consensus is that these days the Corkman is riding better than he has ever been riding, and it is difficult to argue with that consensus. 

Redicean may have to improve again 

Redicean was all the rage for the Triumph Hurdle after he danced in in the Adonis Hurdle at Kempton on Saturday, and you can understand why.

Alan King’s horse was visually impressive.  He travelled really well, he moved up easily to join the leaders on the run to the second last flight, and he quickened away impressively to win a race that has traditionally been a good pointer to the Triumph Hurdle.  And that was just his third run over hurdles, and his third win.  He is progressive, and there is no knowing how good he could be.

However, bookmakers reacted by cutting his odds from around 10/1 to around 5/1 for the Triumph Hurdle, and that may have been an over-reaction.  The form of the race really isn’t strong for Grade 1 level, French raider Beau Gosse disappointed, he beat the 134-rated filly Malaya into second place, and the winning time was not good.  It was almost two and a half seconds slower than the time that the novice Global Citizen clocked in winning the Dovecote Hurdle 35 minutes later.

It is not that Redicean cannot win the Triumph Hurdle, of course he can.  It is just that the Alan King/Adonis Hurdle element may have been factored into his re-jigged odds, and that he may have to improve again quite considerably if he is to win it.  It may be that he is shorter than he should be, second favourite behind Apple’s Shakira and in front of the Irish juveniles. 

Handicap potential

Patricks Park has been given a British handicap rating of 135, just 2lb higher than his Irish mark, which means that Willie Mullins’ horse may struggle to get into any of the three handicaps for which he has been entered at the Cheltenham Festical.  You are probably going to need a mark of 140 or higher to get into the Close Brothers Chase, and you are probably going to need to be 137 or higher to get into the Grand Annual. 

The Brown Advisory Plate is a possible, the lowest-rated horse in last year’s renewal was rated 133, but the cut off has been as high as 137 in recent years, and a slightly higher mark would mean that connections would be able to plan with a little more certainty.  The rationale for the relatively low rating is that horses can only be handicapped on what the handicappers see, that potential for improvement cannot be included.

In other news, Blow By Blow has been given a mark of 144, 5lb higher than his new Irish mark of 139, which already represented a 7lb hike after his impressive victory at Thurles last Thursday.  Fortunately, a seven-year-old who has raced just five times over hurdles, he has the potential to improve by that amount. 

Quote of the week

“The race probably came a bit soon after the John Durkan, he and Djakadam maybe had a harder race than any of us realised.  It is one of those things.  If it was all plain sailing, it would be much too easy!”

Jessica Harrington on Sizing John

© 3rd March 2018