Things We Learned » Carlo an exciting prospect

Carlo an exciting prospect

You know the old adage: if the first person you meet on your way into a racecourse is a trainer who has a runner that day, then you should back that trainer’s runner(s) that day.

Cue: Fozzy Stack, Carlo Biraghi, Punchestown, Monday.

Opportunity missed.

Fozzy Stack hadn’t had a runner over hurdles in forever.  Literally.  Carlo Biraghi was his very first National Hunt runner in Ireland.  You would never have known it though.  The only real scare was when the Galileo gelding moved to his left at the final flight.  But Danny Mullins sat tight, popped the obstacle and drove his horse out to a convincing victory.

There was a lot to like about the performance.  Visually, it was impressive.  Carlo Biraghi travelled well, his jumping wasn’t bad for a debutant, and he stayed on strongly to win by an ever-increasing seven and a half lengths. 

The form is solid too.  Runner-up Pienta, a 76-rated horse after just four runs on the flat, hadn’t run badly in Sir Erec’s maiden hurdle at Leopardstown’s Christmas Festival on his hurdling bow.  Third-placed Andalusa had finished fourth in that maiden that Sir Erec won and she was well backed, while fourth-placed Fenta Des Obeaux, winner of a 12-furlong AQPS bumper in France, had fallen at the first flight when well fancied for a similar contest at Punchestown on New Year’s Eve.

The four horses who chased Carlo Biraghi home occupied the first four places in the pre-race market, and the winning time looked decent.  The race was run in a time that was over three seconds faster than the time that the handicappers took to complete the same course and distance a half an hour later. 

Furthermore, the four-year-old gelding has bags of scope for further progression.  That run on Monday was his first over hurdles, and his fourth under all codes.  Winner of a 10-furlong maiden at The Curragh last May, the last time we saw him, he was racing in the Irish Derby. 

Fozzy Stack said after the race that the Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown’s Dublin Racing Festival might come a little too quickly for him, but the implication was that the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham and the Anniversary Hurdle at Aintree and the Champion Four-Year-Old Hurdle at Punchestown were all very much on the cards. 

And why not?  He was only winning his maiden on Monday but, with a rating of 99 on the flat, he is a classy recruit to hurdles and, with just four runs under his belt, he has lots of potential for progression over obstacles.  Odds of around 16/1 for the Triumph Hurdle look fair.  And after the juvenile hurdles in the spring, his trainer spoke about the big flat handicaps, the Chester Cup and the Ebor and the like.  He is an exciting prospect.

Percy back 

So it looks like Presenting Percy could make his long-anticipated seasonal debut in the John Mulhern Galmoy Hurdle at Gowran Park on Thursday. 

Philip Reynolds’ horse won the race last year, memorably.  The difference is that, last season, he had already won his beginners’ chase and the Porterstown Handicap Chase, and he had finished third in the Florida Pearl Chase.

After he won the Galmoy Hurdle, the Pat Kelly-trained gelding finished second behind Our Duke in the Red Mills Chase, and he won the RSA Chase.  It was a zig-zag route to the RSA Chase, as unorthodox a route as you will ever see an RSA Chase winner take, but it worked.

And last year’s RSA Chase form looks rock solid.  Runner-up Monalee finished second in the Grade 1 Savills Chase at Leopardstown’s Christmas Festival.  Third-placed Elegant Escape won a good intermediate chase at Sandown, finished second in the Ladbrokes Trophy and won the Welsh National.  And Al Boum Photo, who would have finished second or third in the RSA Chase had he not come down at the second last fence, won the Ryanair Gold Cup at Fairyhouse and probably would have won the Growise Chase at Punchestown had he not run out at the final fence.  He is one for one this season too so far.  He was impressive in winning the (other) Savills Chase at Thurles on New Year’s Day. 

Presenting Percy also holds an entry in the Unibet Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown’s Dublin Racing Festival in two weeks’ time so, all going well, it looks like we’re going to see him race again soon.

Anticipation builds

Just two weeks to the Dublin Racing Festival now.  It’s difficult to believe that this is just the second renewal of the weekend, that the inaugural running was only last year.

Headlines?  Eight Grade 1 races this year, the Ladbrokes Dublin Chase (run as the Coral Dublin Chase last year), has been upgraded from Grade 2 to Grade 1.  €1.8 million in prize money.  

Sizing John is on track to make his return, but maybe in the said Ladbrokes Dublin Chase, not in the Unibet Irish Gold Cup.  Le Richebourg is on track, Road To Respect is on track, Apple’s Jade is on track, Supasundae is on track, Delta Work is on track.  Shattered Love is going to miss the meeting, she had sore shins after her run in the Savills Chase and she’s going to go straight to the Irish Gold Cup. 

Just nine 10 British entries and eight nine British entrants in the eight Grade 1 races: Minella Rocco, Top Notch and Waiting Patiently in the Unibet Irish Gold Cup, Hell’s Kitchen, Saint Calvados, Simply Ned and Waiting Patiently again in the Ladbrokes Dublin Chase, Knocknanuss and Reivers Lad in the Frank Ward Solicitors Arkle Chase, La Bague Au Roi in the Flogas Chase.

And, most importantly, 40mm to 50mm of rain in the air.

Kinloch Nae

Strange that the Kinloch Brae name has been dropped from tomorrow’s Kinloch Brae Chase at Thurles.

You can see the micro-level rationale.  If you only have the sponsor’s name by which to identify a race, the number of mentions that the sponsor receives probably increases.

On a macro level, however, it is a pity that the name has been dropped.  The race names are the identifiers by which we chart a path through the season.  Sponsors are fleeting.  Even Hennessy.  Even Whitbread.

The Kinloch Brae Chase is an established event on the Irish racing calendar, inaugurated, as it was, in 1997, and named after Willie O’Grady’s horse who won the Cathcart Chase at the 1969 Cheltenham Festival under Timmy Hyde and who fell in the Cheltenham Gold Cup the following year.  

The Kinloch Brae Chase has been won by some luminaries of National Hunt racing, including Merry Gale (the inaugural running), Native Upmanship (three times), and in 2016 and 2017 by Don Cossack (who also won it in 2015) and Sizing John respectively, the Cheltenham Gold Cup winners of those years.

It is a shame that the name has been erased from the race title this year.  Hopefully it is only a temporary measure. 

Thought for the week

Mick Easterby has been training horses for most of his 87 years.  If he has a strong and thoughtfully aired and reasoned view on a matter that is of importance to racing, it should be heeded, even if it runs contrary to a view that the BHA’s Rules Committee has formed after a two-year-long review of data.

© The Irish Field, 19th January 2019