Things We Learned » Fine Exhibition

Fine Exhibition

Latest Exhibition did very well to win the Grade 2 Navan Novice Hurdle on Sunday, after making that mistake at the first flight in the back straight.

It appeared that he was meeting the obstacle on a good stride too, but he appeared to change his mind mid-flight, tried to take an extra stride, fell between two stools a bit and hit the flight quite hard.  He lost his hind legs at the back of the obstacle too, he lost ground and he lost momentum and he surely lost energy.  It could have been a winning-chance-ending incident.

It was important that he jumped the next flight well, and he did.  He was a little long at it, but Bryan Cooper was positive on him, made up his mind for him, and he flew it.  

He wasn’t great at the last flight in the back straight either, with the net result that, as short as Andy Dufresne was before the race (1/3), he was even shorter as they levelled up for home (around 1/12). 

It may be that Andy Dufresne performed below expectations, and a mistake at the third last flight didn’t help him, but Latest Exhibition was tough.  The Paul Nolan-trained gelding responded to Bryan Cooper’s urgings, got on top of his rival on the run to the last and stayed on strongly from there up the hill all the way to the line.

Latest Exhibition is progressive anyway, this was just his third run over hurdles and just his fifth under all codes, but he was racing over two and a half miles for the first time on Sunday, and he appreciated every yard.  He didn’t travel as well as the favourite until they raced between the final two flights, he got stronger as the race developed, and nowhere was he as strong as on the run to the line.

That shouldn’t be surprising, because he’s bred for it.  By Oscar, out of the Supreme Leader mare Aura About You who, like Latest Exhibition, was bred by Jim Mernagh and raced in the Jim Mernagh colours, and was trained by Paul Nolan.  Aura About You won over hurdles and she won over fences and she finished third behind Quevega in the Mares’ Hurdle at the 2009 Cheltenham Festival.

It was good to see the purple Mernagh (Deep Bramble) colours back with a potentially top class racehorse, and to see Paul Nolan and Bryan Cooper teaming up for a Grade 2 win. 

Latest Exhibition could go higher still, he has lots of scope for further progression.  He could improve again as he steps up in trip, and the Albert Bartlett Hurdle looks like an ideal target for him now.

Redford another Albert Bartlett candidate 

The Albert Bartlett Hurdle is also looking like a good target for Redford Road, and the quality of the performance that he put up in winning the Bristol Novice Hurdle at Cheltenham on Saturday appears to have gone a little under the radar.

Nigel Twiston-Davies’ horse was ridden along as the pace quickened when they started down the hill, but he picked up nicely on the run around the home turn to move quickly from sixth to first as they straightened up.  Champagne Well travelled well into his race on the near side and, with the stands rail on his side, a good jump at the final flight seemed to seal it for him.  But Redford Road stayed on strongly on the far side for Jamie Bargary, and got home by a half a length.

There are plenty of similarities between Redford Road and Latest Exhibition.  Like Paul Nolan’s horse, this was the longest trip over which Redford Road had ever raced, and he put up a career-best.  Also, like Latest Exhibition, this was just his third race over hurdles and his fifth under all codes, so he has similar scope for progression as he continues to gain experience.  And his dam was a stayer over hurdles, a winner over three miles.  While the market appears to have cottoned on to Latest Exhibition all right – it is not surprising that he is joint second favourite in some lists behind Thyme Hill – general odds of 25/1 about Redford Road for the Albert Bartlett Hurdle look big. 

Non-standard race times a move in right direction 

Non-standard race times make all the sense in the world, and it’s good that they are set to be trialled.  As championed by Ruby Walsh, there is no reason why a race can’t be set to go off at 2.33pm as opposed to 2.30pm. 

It was different when there wasn’t so much racing.  It was simple when you had two race meetings on a given day, off times at one meeting on the hour and the half-hour, off times at the other on the quarters.  Or even three meetings: off times every 10 minutes.

It remains to be seen how February’s trial is going to work, but the times between races should be determined by the number of meetings.  Divide the 30 or 35-minute gaps by the number of meetings.  The number of meetings should also determine if there are 30-minute gaps between races at each meeting or 35-minute gaps. 

Say there are five meetings and 35-minute gaps, then a race can go off every seven minutes, as opposed to some after a five-minute gap and some after a 10-minute gap.  Say, the 1.00 at Leopardstown, the 1.07 at Musselburgh, the 1.14 at Sandown, the 1.21 at Wetherby, the 1.28 at Lingfield, back around to the 1.35 at Leopardstown.   

The change should also have the impact of impressing upon everybody the importance of getting as close to the official off-time as possible.  If the off-time is set for 1.58pm, barring something unforeseen, are you more or less likely to hit that time than if it is set for 2.00pm? 

It just needs joined-up thinking between all stakeholders, an overall schedule that incorporates all meetings on a day, not just those from one jurisdiction, and that should be to everybody’s benefit.

Mankind form gets stronger

Not only did Botox Has’ win in the Triumph Hurdle Trial at Cheltenham on Saturday strengthen Gary Moore’s Triumph Hurdle hand, given that the trainer also has ante post favourite Goshen, it also added further ballast to the form of the Grade 2 race that Allmankind won at Cheltenham’s November meeting.

Dan Skelton’s horse was keener than ideal through that race, yet he still stayed on well enough to beat Botox Has by two and a half lengths, with a further seven lengths back to the third horse Repetitio, who battled on well to win a handicap hurdle at Cheltenham on Friday off a mark of 125.

© The Irish Field, 21st December 2019