Things We Learned » Solo impressive but he’s short

Solo impressive but he’s short

Solo was impressive all right in winning the Adonis Hurdle at Kempton on Saturday, and it is right that he has been catapulted into the middle of the Triumph Hurdle picture.  But 3/1 favourite and a rating of 157 could be a bit of an over-reaction.  Even his trainer Paul Nicholls thought that his rating was high.  (And not because it scuppered Fred Winter plans.)

To put that rating into context, that leaves Solo just 2lb inferior to Epatante, the Champion Hurdle favourite, and 3lb superior to Envoi Allen.

He was seriously impressive visually all right, he couldn’t have done much more than he did, and he was eased down close home.  But the Racing Post time was over a second slower than the time that Highway One O Two clocked in winning the Dovecote Hurdle, and it was over four seconds slower than the time that Song For Someone clocked in winning the re-scheduled Kingwell Hurdle.  He may well win the Triumph Hurdle, but it is a deep Triumph Hurdle, and he looks short.


You click a button these days and you read about defections.  Champagne Classic was the latest, and that’s desperate luck for Gordon Elliott and Gigginstown House.  Again.  Ruled out of the National Hunt Chase in 2019, ruled out of the National Hunt Chase in 2020.

He joins an ever-lengthening list of high-profile defections, Native River and Klassical Dream and Saldier among them.  Un De Sceaux yesterday as well.  There will be more too over the course of the next 10 days as the screws get tighter.  And make no mistake, it happens to the not-so-good ones as well as the good ones.  You just don’t read about it that much when it happens to the not-so-good ones.  

Plots and sub-plots

We usually go digging around for the plots and the sub-plots in the Pertemps Final when, actually, the answer is often a little more obvious than you think.

Five of the last 12 winners of the race won on their previous outings, including three of the last six, Fingal Bay, Call The Cops and Presenting Percy.  And two of the last six winners who didn’t win on their previous outings, Mall Dini and Delta Work, finished third.  Last year’s winner Sire Du Berlais is the only one of the last six winners who didn’t finish in the first three on his previous run.

As well as that, Irish-trained horses have won the last four renewals.  Only two horses in the race are trained in Ireland and won last time out, Mary Frances and Silver Sheen.  Mary Frances is 13lb higher than she was when she won the Punchestown qualifier, which looks harsh enough, whereas Silver Sheen is just 6lb higher than he was when he won the Warwick qualifier.  He will be 8lb better off with One For The Team if they both run, despite the fact that he beat him by almost three lengths into third place at Warwick.

Add that to the fact that Jessica Harrington’s horse has won his last three, that he is progressive and that he has raced just five times over hurdles, and at 14/1 or 16/1, he looks like the unheralded horse of the race. 

Johnson back

It was great to see Richard Johnson back riding at Musselburgh on Thursday, and back with a double too.  Two wins from two rides.

When the champion jockey broke his arm in a fall at Exeter on 21st January, he was three behind Brian Hughes, and the championship really looked lost.  Brian Hughes rode winners too during the five weeks that Johnson was out, 17 of them, so that, on Thursday morning, the gap between the pair of them was 20.  Now it’s 18, 131 to 113.

Hughes had a victory of sorts too on Thursday, he succeeded in having a four-day ban reduced to two, but it meant that he wasn’t able to ride at Musselburgh on the day, where he had ridden a winner on Wednesday.

It’s still a long shot but, you never know.  The battle between the pair of them for the title could be an interesting sub-plot to the final throes of this British National Hunt season.  If Johnson could generate some momentum now, and you know that he will do all that he can to do exactly that, you don’t know where it could take him.  He rode 36 winners between March and April in 2016 and again in 2017 and, if he achieved a similar total in the last two months of this season, you don’t know how close he could get.  

Mind your bets

It’s a bit of a coincidence that both The Big Getaway (the one by Getaway, the big one) and The Big Breakaway (the other one by Getaway) are probably both going to run in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.  Be careful that you don’t back one when you mean to back the other.  Maybe back them both.  Or back one of them and claim afterwards if it goes the wrong way that you meant to back the other.

Incidentally, Sporting John is also by the Grange Stud stallion.  It’s up to Envoi Allen to scupper the Getaway trifecta.

And while we’re here, careful that you don’t back Siskin for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle or Shishkin for the Guineas.

© The Irish Field, 29th February 2020