Things We Learned » Tingle Creek ideal target

Tingle Creek ideal target

Footpad’s defeat was the story that they latched onto from the Poplar Square Chase at Naas on Saturday, not Saint Calvados’ victory.

In a way, you can understand why.  Footpad is box office.  Willie Mullins’ horse was a talented hurdler, but he reached a new level last season when he started to jump fences.  He went through the 2017/18 campaign unbeaten, five runs, five wins, bagging an Irish Arkle, an Arkle, a Racing Post Novice Chase and a Ryanair Novice Chase en route.

The trait that characterised his performances last season was his jumping: fast and slick and accurate.  It was that characteristic more than any other that allowed him reach a higher level over fences that he attained over hurdles.  He jumped 58 fences in public last season, and he made one mistake. 

Nothing went right on Saturday.  He made a bad mistake at the third fence, and he made a strange mistake at the sixth.  It looked like Saint Calvados had his measure when he departed at the final fence.  (It’s barely worth mentioning, but anyone who seriously, genuinely thinks that Ruby Walsh deliberately put him on the floor needs to go back to primary school.)

At the time, it was very disappointing, but at least there is mitigation now.  He reportedly suffered an over-reach during the race, probably at the third fence.  So you can therefore legitimately forgive his mistake at the sixth fence and his departure at the last.  It was not an ideal start to the season, but you can forgive him this defeat fairly readily.  It’s not easy to run and jump when you are injured.  And the good news is that Willie Mullins reported during the week that he will miss about 10 days, no more.

Amid the forensic analysis of Footpad’s performance, however, there is a chance that the performance that Saint Calvados put up in winning the race has gone at least a little under the radar.  Harry Wittington’s horse quickly settled into a lovely racing rhythm in front for Gavin Sheehan.  He did have it all to himself in front, but his jumping was good and he travelled smoothly from flagfall.  He couldn’t have done any more than he did.

He is a bit of a forgotten horse from last year, possibly because he could finish only fourth of five behind Footpad in the Arkle at Cheltenham.  But that was after getting into an ultimately chance-ending duel for the early lead with Petit Mouchoir.  And Cheltenham may not be his track anyway.  His three previous wins over fences were gained at Newbury and Warwick, both relatively flat tracks. 

Remember that he was sent off as the 11/4 second favourite for the Arkle.

The Tingle Creek Chase is a race that could be ideal for Saint Calvados.  He has never run at Sandown, but the chase track generally rewards fluent jumpers and prominent racers.  Saint Calvados is both of those.

Also, the race is run in early December, often on soft ground.  Nine of the last 10 renewals were run on good to soft or soft ground.  That would be ideal.  He will probably have to face Altior in the Tingle Creek, but Nicky Henderson’s horse hasn’t run yet this season, and Saint Calvados would be a worthy adversary for the Champion Chaser. 

Harry Whittington and Andrew Brooks didn’t duck the Footpad challenge at Naas.  They are unlikely to duck the Altior challenge at Sandown.

Talent is reason enough

Last Saturday was an anniversary of sorts for Bryony Frost.  It was on the same day 12 months ago that she launched herself headlong into the public psyche with the ride that she gave Present Man to win the Badger Ales Trophy at Wincanton.

She had come to attention before that.  She had ridden Pacha Du Polder to win the Foxhunter at Cheltenham in March 2017, a month after she had ridden him to win a hunters’ chase at Bangor.  But she was an amateur then, riding against fellow amateurs.  She was a professional by the time she rode Present Man to win the Badger Ales 12 months ago.

She cut loose last season.  She won a big handicap hurdle at Newbury on Old Guard, she won a big handicap chase at Cheltenham on Frodon, and she won the Classic Chase at Warwick on Milansbar, whom she also rode to finish fifth in the Grand National.  And she rode Black Corton.

Black Corton didn’t go anywhere without Bryony Frost last season.  Together they won seven chases, the Grade 1 Kauto Star Chase and the Grade 2 Reynoldstown Chase among them.

There’s her personality of course, vivacious and effervescent and infectious, but there is also her talent.  Horses appear to run and jump for her.  And there’s her tactical nous.  Her awareness of pace.  Frodon in the Old Roan Chase at Aintree in October was one example.  Present Man at Wincanton last Saturday was another.

She went to Kempton on Monday then and steered Marienstar to an easy victory.  Led all the way.  That was win number 75, and that was the end of her claim.  Her last winner as a claiming professional.  No more (3).  Now she is swimming in the deep waters of open competition.  There is no reason for trainers to put her up now other than for her talent.  But that’s reason enough.  She is a highly talented rider.

If Bryony Frost is looking for inspiration, she only needs to look across the Irish Sea.  Rachael Blackmore rode a double at Thurles on Monday for Shark Hanlon – two rides, two winners – and she rode another double at Fairyhouse on Wednesday for Henry de Bromhead.  Three rides, two winners.  That brought her up to 55 wins for the season so far, back to within one of championship leader Paul Townend. 

As with Bryony Frost now, Rachael Blackmore has no claim.   She hasn’t had one since June last year.  There is no reason for trainers to put her up other than for her talent. 

You don’t have to look that hard for evidence of that.  Bedrock in the WKD Hurdle from the rear.  Sub Lieutenant in the Irish Daily Star Chase from the front.  Ellie Mac at Fairyhouse on Wednesday.  Peacock’s Secret at Naas last Saturday.

Only one rider, Andrew Lynch, has had more rides than Rachael Blackmore in Ireland this National Hunt season so far. 

Her talent is reason enough.

Perception versus reality 

Reality usually equals perception.  And vice versa.  As in, the way things are and the way things are perceived to be are usually identical.

At its simplest, a banana is yellow, and people perceive a banana to be yellow.  Identical.  Reality equals perception.  (Unless how one person sees yellow and how another person sees yellow are different, but that is a discussion for another day.)

The problem arises when perception and reality diverge. 

Like, you know that ad in which it looks like the guy is mugging the old lady, but actually he is helping her?  So the question is, given a choice, do you allow the guy to be arrested because it looked like he was doing harm, or do you endeavour to educate the arresting officer on the reality of the situation?

Abolitionist in Pineau’s footsteps

There are similarities between Abolitionist now and Pineau De Re in 2013.  Pineau De Re had proven himself to be a talented staying handicap chaser in Ireland in 2013.  He won the Ulster Grand National at Downpatrick on his final run for Philip Fenton.  Abolitionist likewise.  He finished third in the Irish Grand National on his penultimate run for Ellmarie Holden.

Pineau De Re was a 10-year-old when he left Ireland in 2013.  Same as Abolitionist is now.  Pineau De Re joined Dr Richard Newland, as did Abolitionist, and both were ridden by Sam Twiston-Davies on their respective first runs for their new trainer.

There are differences though.  It took Pineau De Re a little while to find his métier for his new trainer.  He raced lots during the summer, and he didn’t win a race until he won a handicap chase at Exeter in January 2014, on his ninth run in Britain.

The Abolitionist project has been a little different so far.  The Flemensfirth gelding reportedly suffered a stress fracture to his pelvis last year, so his debut for his new trainer was delayed until last Saturday.  He was well backed in advance of that debut, in a handicap hurdle at Aintree, and he was impressive in winning easily.  It isn’t surprising that he was well backed, given that he was racing off a hurdles mark of 122, 23lb lower than his chase mark.

Pineau De Re won the Aintree Grand National the following April, an 11-year-old racing off a mark of 143.  Abolitionist will be 11 next April, he is currently rated 145 over fences, and the Grand National is apparently, unsurprisingly, the plan.  Stranger things have happened.

Galway Festival in Britain

Galway Festival in Britain?  Good idea, but big challenge.  Unless you can take the thing that makes Galway special, put it into a bottle, and take it across the water.  (Be sure to do it before next March though.) 

© The Irish Field, 17th November 2018