Things We Learned » Bad week for the good things

Bad week for the good things

It hasn’t been a good week for the good things.  Santini got beaten, Mengli Khan got beaten, Kalashnikov got beaten, Getabird got beaten, Footpad got beaten.  Even Buveur D’Air got beaten, and Buveur D’Air never gets beaten.

At least Altior won.

It is difficult to find the rationale for Buveur D’Air’s defeat in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Wednesday.  Some results are like that.  Unfathomable.  Even after the race has been run, even after you know the result, you still find it difficult to countenance.  You just put it down to one-of-those-things and move on.

Nicky Henderson’s horse made a fairly significant error at the third last flight, and that obviously didn’t help, but he and Barry Geraghty still seemed to have everything under control when they hit the front at the second last.  It is not surprising that he traded at 1.06 in-running.

In the end, he was run down by his stable companion Verdana Blue, a high-class mare who had the ground in her favour and who had the run of the race.  But she is rated 20lb inferior to Buveur D’Air, and she was receiving just the 7lb mares’ allowance from him, so on paper she had no chance of beating him.  But paper schmaper sometimes.  That’s why you have to run the races.  

That performance puts Verdana Blue into the Champion Hurdle picture for sure, and surely she has to run in the race now as long as the ground does not come up soft.  She can run in the all-weather stayers’ race on Good Friday after that all she wants. 

From Buveur D’Air’s perspective, you just have to put it down to an off day.  JP McManus’ dual champion still sets the standard.  He remains the one they all have to beat on 12th March.

Novice defeats 

There was a common thread that ran through Santini, Mengli Khan, Kalashnikov and Getabird: all novice chasers, all with limited experience over fences before they lined up in their respective Christmas targets.  Kalashnikov had raced just twice over fences, while the other three had raced just once.

Getabird was a little unlucky in the Matchbook Betting Exchange Chase at Limerick.  He is another who seemed to have things under control (1.05 in-running) when a mistake at the final fence opened the door for Hardline.  

In fairness to Hardline, he had the pace to stay with the favourite up to that point and, under a fine ride from Keith Donoghue, who was notching up a deserved for Grade 1 win of his career, he had the stamina and the determination to (continuing the analogy) push through the door once it was opened a little.  This was another career-best from Gordon Elliott’s horse, and the fact that he saw out the two and a half miles opens up options for him.  The front pair pulled clear, and you can be sure that Getabird will have his day. 

The Scilly Isles Chase at Sandown, right-handed and two and a half miles and usually on soft ground, could be the race for him.  It is a race that Willie Mullins won with Gitane Du Berlais in 2015. 

There was always a chance that Kempton would not play to Santini’s strengths in the Kauto Star Chase, and that is how it appeared to pan out.  He had a lovely sit through the early stages of the race, on the inside just behind the pace, but he got a little out-paced when La Bague Au Roi quickened towards the end of the back straight, before staying on up the home straight to take third place. 

In the end, Nicky Henderson’s horse did well to get to within three and a half lengths of the winner, and it is probable that he can improve again when he gets back to Newbury or Cheltenham.

Mengli Khan was weak in the market before the Racing Post Novice Chase at Leopardstown, and he didn’t really jump with the accuracy that had defined his performance in his beginners’ chase at Punchestown.  Kalashnikov was also less than fluent over his fences early on in the Wayward Lad Chase at Kempton, as far as we could see through the fog.  You wouldn’t be giving up on either as an Arkle prospect, and Kalashnikov will surely be better when he gets back on easier ground.

Juveniles could rank highly

It is rare that you see a horse who finished third in the Long Distance Cup at Ascot on British Champions Day showing up in a juvenile maiden hurdle two months later, but Sir Erec did, at Leopardstown on Thursday, and he duly went home with the spoils.

It was a good performance by Joseph O’Brien’s horse.  It was a dramatic conclusion to the race, with Bint Chattleya coming down on the run to the final flight and Bachelor coming down at it when in the front rank, but Sir Erec had to dig deep to get the better of Tiger Tap Tap, who was making his debut for Willie Mullins, and who enhanced his own reputation in defeat.

These two could be two very good juvenile hurdlers.  Sir Erec reached a rating of 109 after just five runs on the flat for Aidan O’Brien, and Tiger Tap Tap pushed him all the way on Thursday, the pair of them coming clear. 

This race has been a good pointer to the top juvenile hurdles of the spring in recent years.  It was won in 2015 by Ivanovich Gorbatov, who went on to win the Triumph Hurdle two and a half months later, and it was won last year by Mr Adjudicator, who won the Grade 1 Spring Hurdle back at Leopardstown in February, and who finished second in both the Triumph Hurdle and the Champion Four-Year-Old Hurdle at Punchestown. 

Best odds of 10/1 about Sir Erec for the Triumph Hurdle look fair.

Sad to lose Lough

It was sad to learn of the demise of Carlingford Lough after the Paddy Power Chase on Thursday.  JP McManus’ horse had a remarkable racing career.  He got off the mark over fences when he landed the Galway Plate in 2013, and he took a high rank among the novice chasers of his era, up there with Don Cossack and Morning Assembly and Road To Riches, winning the Neville Hotels Chase at Leoapardstown and the Growise Chase at Punchestown. 

Under the masterful guidance of John Kiely, the King’s Theatre gelding also won the Punchestown Gold Cup as a 10-year-old, beating Djakadam and Don Poli and Cue Card, and he won two Irish Gold Cups, providing AP McCoy with his first win in the race on his last attempt on a special day at Leopardstown in February 2015.  He was just one of those horses, and he will be missed.

Some week

It has been some week for Mark Walsh so far.  Ten rides during the first two days of Leopardstown’s Christmas Festival, five winners.  A double on Wednesday and a treble on Thursday.  That’s a 50% strike rate at half-time at one of the top meetings on the National Hunt calendar, including the Grade 1 Racing Post Novice Chase on Le Richebourg and the Grade 1 Paddy’s Rewards Club Chase on Simply Ned.  (Again.)  He is riding out of his skin these days.

© The Irish Field, 29th December 2018