Ballymore shaping into a festival treat
On Friday at Sandown we saw an exciting renewal of the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle Trial. A number of horses with big reputations coming into the race had their colours lowered due to an exceptional performance from the Nicky Henderson trained On The Blind Side.
Before the race most people could be forgiven for thinking this trip might be a little sharp for him, as he had looked outpaced over a furlong further when winning at Cheltenham previously. However, he showed he had pace and a decent turn of foot when powering away from his rivals on Friday for a nine length success.
The biggest reputation to take a hit during the race was the Colin Tizzard trained White Moon, who was toiling before the race really got going and finished a well beaten last of seven. It could be a case that he never gave his true running, but he will have plenty to prove when he returns to the racecourse. Springtown Lake and Red River ran nice races and come out with plenty of credit, but neither were a match for the impressive winner.
After the race Nicky Henderson confirmed the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle was going to be the likely target at the festival, a market which is currently headed by the short priced Samcro, who looks like another star of the future. He still needs to prove himself against the best, but you can’t help but be taken with what he has done so far.
Plans can change nearer the time and the Challow Hurdle over 2m5f was nominated as the next target at Christmas. It’s a race which usually goes to a future stayer. Previous winners include Denman, Diamond Harry, Reve De Sivola, Taquin Du Seuil and Barters Hill.
Blaklion shines over the national fences
Blaklion ran out an impressive winner of the Becher chase at Aintree on Saturday, having been well backed following his 4th in the Grand National in April and a close 2nd to Betfair Chase winner Bristol De Mai in the Charlie Hall last month. Given a patient ride by Gavin Sheehan, he travelled strongly through the race before taking it up before the last and going away in the closing stages. Top weight The Last Samurai chased him home, in what was an exceptional performance from him too!
The handicapper had given Blaklion a two pound drop in the handicap on the back of his second to Bristol De Mai in the Charlie Hall, which seemed a gift considering he was only denied by half a length and the winner has since demolished a field of grade one winners in the Betfair chase. While you can make a case with Bristol De Mai being rated 159 at the time of the race and giving the runner up six pounds for a half length win, not many horses are treated so kindly when running so well.
He will go up for this and will be towards the top of the weights come the big day in April, but he deserves to be at the head of the market on this evidence. The Grand National trial at Haydock was nominated by Nigel Twiston-Davies as his next race before the big day itself.
Tizzard to step up his chasers
Colin Tizzard came to Sandown on Saturday with two strong fancies in the two grade one chases on the card. Finian’s Oscar was expected to back up his recent novice win over two and a half miles at Cheltenham, but looked horribly outpaced before running on for a well beaten third.
It was a similar story for Fox Norton in the Tingle Creek, although perhaps not to the same extent. He only just failed to overhaul the very game Politologue, but he is another due to step up in trip, with the King George over three miles on Boxing Day a possibility.
The winners of both races deserve plenty of credit and can have a big say this season in the two mile divisions. Sceau Royal came into the race relatively unfancied and on the balance of his previous form looked to have plenty to find. He tanked into the race and flew away from his rivals for an impressive success. We will see whether the form stands up and i’d like to see him again before i’d be backing him for an Arkle.
Politologue deserves to be the clear alternative to Douvan and Altior on the back of this. We are yet to see either of those horses, who at their best would more than likely have far too much for the Paul Nicholls trained gelding. The step back from intermediate trips to the minimum distance has clearly had a positive effect and as a six year old, he has potential to improve further.
John silences his doubters
Winner of three Gold cups last season, you’d think Sizing John would be all the rage to land back to back Cheltenham victories. However, he has plenty of doubters and many believe the Gold Cup he won was substandard.
Even if that is the case, his victory at Punchestown on Sunday over two and a half miles advertised his well being and he more than deserves to head the market. He comfortably accounted for the well backed Djakadam and there are plenty of holes you can knock into his Cheltenham rivals. He looks as good as ever.
Chief amongst them could be last season’s RSA winner Might Bite. He easily accounted for a fair field of chasers on his reappearance, but he still has to do it at the top level in open company and you would always have his RSA antics in your mind when he returns to that venue again.
Yorkhill is many ideas thoughts as a potential winner, but he needs to show his effectiveness at three miles plus and his tendency to race keenly won’t be helped by the slower pace demanded of that trip. He is a tantalising proposition if they do take that route with him, but we need him to go out and do it first.
Our Duke was disappointing on his first run of the season and he will need to come back from his back injury and show his well being before he becomes a strong contender. Hopefully he can do that.