Things We Learned » Just a little wiser

Just a little wiser

Laurina did what she needed to do in the listed mares’ hurdle at Sandown on Saturday. 

Two defections depleted the four-runner race, left her with just one rival.  Sensulano is an admirable mare who battled on well to win a mares’ handicap hurdle at Cheltenham’s December meeting on her previous run, but she was rated 18lb inferior to her rival going into Saturday’s race.

Laurina was sent off at 1/8 and justified those odds with a bloodless victory.

We are not much wiser.  Willie Mullins’ mare couldn’t have done any more than she did.  That said, it was a small step forward.  It was an ideal introduction to the season for Jared Sullivan’s mare.  She only had as hard a race as the race that she gave herself.  We know that she is healthy and well, and it was another notch on the experience pole.  Now she has run five times over hurdles for Willie Mullins, and seven times in all.

On form, the Champion Hurdle is still miles away.  The five races that Laurina has won have all been against mares, four of them against fellow novices and the other against one rival.  She has only ever met one rival who has had an official rating of greater than 136, Maria’s Benefit, who was rated 147 when Laurina beat her into fourth place in the mares’ novices’ hurdle at last year’s Cheltenham Festival.

Laurina’s own new official rating of 155 leaves her 17lb inferior to Buveur D’Air.  Include her 7lb mares’ allowance, and that leaves her with 10lb to find on the Champion Hurdle favourite.  She also has net 3lb and net 1lb to find with her stable companions Melon and Sharjah respectively.

Actually, even with her mares’ allowance, she is just the sixth highest rated horse among the likely Champion Hurdle runners at this stage.

Of course, official ratings only measure achievement, they don’t (or they shouldn’t) allow for potential, and Laurina’s potential runs deep.  We still don’t know where the ceiling of her ability is.  Best odds of 4/1 about her for the Champion Hurdle look very short on the basis of what she has achieved, but all of her potential, as well as all that she has achieved, is factored into those odds. 

Mares excelling

Laurina is one of a group of highly talented mares who are excelling this National Hunt season.

Apple’s Jade is obviously on top of the list of equine female stars.  The Gigginstown House mare has been at the top for quite some time.  This season already, the Gordon Elliott-trained mare has won the Lismullen Hurdle, the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle and the Christmas Hurdle, all against the boys.  It’s difficult to believe that she has only just turned seven.

Verdana Blue claimed the headlines when she beat Buveur D’Air in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on St Stephen’s Day.  That was Nicky Henderson’s mare’s sixth run in three months.  In that time, she won four times, a flat race at Chelmsford, a listed hurdle at Kempton and the Grade 2 Elite Hurdle at Wincanton as well as the Christmas Hurdle.

La Bague Au Roi hasn’t been as busy, but she has been busy enough.  Warren Greatrex’s mare, who won three of her five races over hurdles last season, is now three for three over fences this term.  She beat Dipper Chase winner Lostintranslation in her beginners’ chase at Newbury in November, and she beat Topofthegame and RSA Chase favourite Santini in the Kauto Star Chase at Kempton on St Stephen’s Day.

There are many others.  The Jessica Harrington-trained Magic Of Light ran a cracker to finish third in the Troytown Chase in November, then went to Newbury in December and bolted up in a listed mares’ chase.  Epatante was impressive in winning at Kempton in November on her first run for JP McManus and Nicky Henderson.  

The Willie Mullins-trained Camelia De Cotte was impressive in winning a Grade 3 mares’ novices’ chase on Hilly Way Chase day at Cork last month in a time that was faster than the time in which the Hilly Way Chase itself was run.  The Philip Kirby-trained Lady Buttons is three for three this season.  Good Thyne Tara was game in landing the Grade 3 mares’ hurdle at Leopardstown over Christmas.  And there is surely more to come from Stormy Ireland and Shattered Love and My Sister Sarah and Robin De Carlow and their ilk this season.

Doyen dominant

Like Laurina, Battleoverdoyen did all that he had to do in winning the Grade 1 Lawlor’s of Naas Novice Hurdle at Naas on Sunday. 

Gordon Elliott’s horse was impressive again.  He travelled well for Jack Kennedy, he jumped well and he stayed on well.  His task was rendered easier than it might have been by the defection of his stable companion Commander Of Fleet, and by the fact that two of the three Willie Mullins horses, Tornado Flyer and Come To Me, under-performed.  But Battleoverdoyen could not have done much more than he did.  

The Doyen gelding is four from four now, a point-to-point, a bumper, a maiden hurdle and now a Grade 1 novice hurdle.  He will probably be better over further in time, and he will probably be better over a fence in time, and Jack Kennedy said that he would probably be better on easier ground.  His four runs have been on good, good, yielding and good ground.  He has two-and-a-half-mile pace though.  He could be more a Ballymore Hurdle horse than an Albert Bartlett Hurdle horse this season.

Sams Profile ran a big race to take second place.  Mouse Morris’ horse made a mistake at the second flight, and he made a similar but worse mistake at the fourth last flight.  That should really have been a chance-ending mistake.  He left his hind legs behind him, he lost ground and momentum at a crucial stage of the race, just as the pace was increasing and when positioning was at a premium.

He was squeezed out of it too by Battleoverdoyen at the top of the home straight.  Once in the clear though, he stayed on really well for Bryan Cooper to take second place.

Winner of his maiden hurdle at Cork in November, the form of Sams Profile’s run to finish second in a Grade 3 contest over three miles back at Cork on Hilly Way Chase day was enhanced when the first and third, Derrinross and Pleasure Dome, filled the same places in a Grade 2 contest at Limerick over Christmas.  He is progressive and he is another steeplechaser in waiting, but he could be an interesting outsider for the Albert Bartlett Hurdle this season.

Cheltenham changes

There are no major changes to the Cheltenham Festival programme for this year.  No mares’ chase and no Ryanair Hurdle and no veterans’ race, and it looks like there are going to be still four days and 28 races, not five days and 30 races.  It’s all good. 

Long may the status quo be retained.

The Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir is still the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir, and the Martin Pipe Hurdle is still the Martin Pipe Hurdle, and the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual is still the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual.  The Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle has become the Sun Racing Stayers’ Hurdle, and the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup has become the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup, but we knew that that was happening.

And the order of all races remains the same.  If the Albert Bartlett Hurdle was the third race on the last day last year (it was), it will be the third race on the last day this year.  It’s exactly the same, which is also good.  The order of races is settling down nicely into memory.  All the way from the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle to the (afore-mentioned) Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup.  And the countdown is on.

Two Moores

Q. So how do you know when J Moore (jockey) is Jamie Moore and how do you know when it’s Joshua Moore? 

A. It’s Jamie when it’s J E Moore.  Think JamE Moore.  Same as how you know when D Mullins is Danny Mullins (D E Mullins) and how you know when it’s David Mullins (D J Mullins, not D E Mullins). 

Alternatively, Joshua Moore is Josh Moore.  Maybe that way is easier.

(Mayb E.)

© The Irish Field, 12th January 2019