Things We Learned » Monalee options

Monalee options

Monalee was good in winning the Red Mills Chase at Gowran Park on Saturday.  Sent to the front from flagfall by Rachael Blackmore, he was quickly into a nice even racing rhythm, and it never looked like he was going to be passed.  

And so the Cheltenham Festival quandary persists: Gold Cup or Ryanair Chase? 

You can argue the case for both.  Henry de Bromhead’s horse recorded the highest Timeform rating of his life on Saturday, over two and a half miles.  That’s a point in favour of the Ryanair Chase.  But his two next highest Timeform ratings were recorded in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas, and in the RSA Chase last March, both over three miles. 

Sticking with Timeform ratings, they tell us that the Gold Cup is more difficult to win than the Ryanair Chase, which is not surprising.  Not that it is easy to win either.  The average Timeform rating recorded by the last three Gold Cup winners in winning the race is 171.33, while the average rating recorded by the last three winners of the Ryanair Chase is 168.33.  Point in favour of the Ryanair. 

But point in favour of the Cheltenham Gold Cup: it is the Cheltenham Gold Cup.  There is only one.

What we do know is that Monalee is a Cheltenham horse, a Cheltenham Festival horse.  In two runs there, he has finished second to Penhill in an Albert Bartlett Hurdle and second to Presenting Percy in an RSA Chase.

We also know that Barry Maloney’s horse is probably still progressing.  He is still only eight, he has raced just eight times over fences, and his last two performances have been career-best performances.  There could be another career-best forthcoming, and he is a real live contender for either race. 

It’s a quandary all right, but it’s a good quandary. 

Some day for Nicholls

Paul Nicholls had some day on Saturday.  He may have had 24 runners, but eight of them won.  That’s a strike rate of 33% on a hugely competitive Saturday afternoon, and a 45,863/1 accumulator.

Cyrname was brilliant again in the Betfair Ascot Chase, back at Ascot, back over the course and distance over which he had put up one of the most impressive performances of the season so far in winning a good handicap chase four weeks earlier.

He was up in grade on Saturday, he was taking on Grade 1 rivals in Waiting Patiently and Fox Norton and Politologue, but he put up a similar performance and he achieved an identical result.  Out in front and rolling and putting his rivals under pressure.  It is difficult to think of a horse who jumps Ascot’s stiff fences as well as Cyrname jumps them. 

It looks like he is going to skip this year’s Cheltenham Festival.  He has never run at Cheltenham, and all his best performances have been at right-handed tracks, so the plan appears to be to keep him to right-handed tracks.

The talk is of the Punchestown Gold Cup in April and the King George in December, and that is sensible talk.  He still has to prove that he can stay three miles, but it is interesting that he held an entry in this afternoon’s 888Sport Handicap Chase at Kempton, and there is a chance that he will get further than the intermediate trip.

Some 70 minutes before Cyrname won, Clan Des Obeaux won the Betfair Denman Chase, re-routed from Newbury.  He was a 2/5 shot, he was meeting rivals who were rated significantly inferior, but he still looked good in coming clear of the talented Terrefort.

On the face of it, he has an awful lot in his favour as a Gold Cup contender.  He is the King George winner and now the Ascot Chase winner, he is only seven and he is trained by Paul Nicholls.

But he is short now for the Gold Cup.  He is no better than 9/2, which is short enough for a horse who is zero for four at Cheltenham, and who has been beaten on the two occasions on which he has ventured beyond three miles.

Championship watch

Here’s how the Irish National Hunt jockeys’ championship went this week:

Last Friday

Paul Townend – 82 winners

Rachael Blackmore – 76 winners



Paul Townend – 83 (1 winner on the day)

Rachael Blackmore – 79 (3 winners on the day)



Paul Townend – 83 (0)

Rachael Blackmore – 80 (1)



Paul Townend – 84 (1)

Rachael Blackmore – 81 (1)



Paul Townend – 85 (1)

Rachael Blackmore – 81 (0)


This one could go all the way.

Tiger rolls on

Tiger Roll is as versatile and as durable as he is tough and talented and willing and popular.  At Navan on Sunday, Gordon Elliott’s horse added a Grade 2 Boyne Hurdle to his diverse haul, which includes a Triumph Hurdle and a Cross Country Chase and a Munster National and a National Hunt Chase and, of course, a Grand National.

The equinification of diminutive, the Gigginstown House horse has won over every distance between two miles and four and a quarter miles inclusive, including two miles and four miles and two and a half miles and three and three quarter miles, and at every discipline between juvenile hurdles and Grand Nationals, including Grade 2 hurdles and cross country chases.  It is not surprising that he is one of the most well-known and popular horses in training.

If he could just dead-heat for first place in a five-furlong flat race now, the set would be complete.

Quiz time

Q. How many different riders have ridden Tiger Roll to victory?

A. Seven.  Keith Donoghue, Davy Russell, Lisa O’Neill, Donagh Meyler, Jack Kennedy, Bryan Cooper and Mark Quinlan.  Well done if you got Mark Quinlan.

© The Irish Field, 23rd February 2019