So here we are again.
Happily, Fountains Windfall made sure that it was always going to be a winning day for this column, although if I was being churlish I might be a little aggrieved that the National winner was one of the two who narrowly missed the cut for my selections.
It was also nice to finally get some validation that Chesterfield WAS well handicapped after all – there was a very real danger, had he not won this time, that he and I would have been walking, hand in hoof to the cliffs edge if his mark had stayed the same for much longer!
Anyway, I decided to eschew the usual Saturday blog simply because there was nothing that particularly appealed and because there was such an appetising card at Fairyhouse on Sunday.
So, without further ado, let’s take a look.
Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund Mares Novice Hurdle Championship Final
This probably won’t be as easy as the market seems to think that it will be for Let’s Dance.
I can’t help but feel that the shape of the market at the moment assumes that the outcome of the Mares Novices’ Hurdle at the festival is a definitive assessment of how good these horses are. I’m not sure if things are as cut and dried as that, and that’s to say nothing of the fact that there’s an occasional tendency with former juvenile hurdlers to stop improving relatively abruptly – analysis of Let’s Dance tends to overlook her fourth placed finish in Ivanovich Gorbatov’s Triumph – and it feels, to me at least, like there might be some value to be had.
Working out where it lies is the fun part.
I think working through things systematically that we can probably fairly safely rule out Barra – who is on five pounds worse terms with Let’s Dance than at Cheltenham – and Good Thyne Tara, whose better form appears to be when she gets a slightly sounder surface, but is still someway behind these on the peak of their form.
Probably the key determinant in all of this is how headstrong Airlie Beach is, but, I suspect that she will enjoy herself far more than she did at Cheltenham, given that there is a lack of front runners other than her here. To that end, she is very much overpriced. I suppose it’s theoretically possible that Augusta Kate might be ridden prominently to counteract the drop back in trip, but it would be counterproductive for them to take each other on, as Airlie Beach and La Bague Au Roi did last time and probably less likely given that they hail from the same yard.
She might well be worth another chance – she was only rated a pound behind Let’s Dance prior to Cheltenham and has won over both this, and slightly longer trips – at Gowran and Galway – previously. I can’t help but feel that she still possess capacity to improve, and clearly likes the track, having won the Royal Bond here in good style, and today could be her day. Augusta Kate meanwhile, perhaps isn’t as good as was hoped, and in light of Death Duty’s poor run in the Albert Bartlett, makes very little appeal.
Colin’s Sister is a little more difficult to assess, if only because it’s more difficult to try and quantify how good her form is relative to the others. I suspect, that it compares relatively well, but is slightly short of analogous. Rating her through Ms Parfois, who was ten lengths behind her, conceding five pounds, and who went on to win a relatively low key novice event at Fontwell is now rated 127 – and, with that in mind 142 seems fair. She also has the advantage of being relatively fresh (I wonder if that applies equally to Airlie Beach – the thinking there being that for all her bluster, she didn’t have an overly hard race last month) but I just wonder if Colin’s Sister would like the ground a little softer than it is likely to be, a fact evidenced by the fact that three out of her four wins have come on a soft ground. It could well be that she missed the festival with this in mind, on the assumption that the conditions were more likely to be in her favour here, and that would not have been an inappropriate methodology. It hasn’t quite worked out that way, but she deserves her chance nonetheless. I am sure she’ll run creditably, but I can offer no more than that. Counterintuitively I can’t offer the same guarantee about Airlie Beach, who could reprise her Cheltenham misbehaviour, but she seems to possess perhaps more latent talent, and is perhaps worth the risk.
Shattered Love is interesting, back against her own sex, but like Colin’s Sister, may well need more cut in the ground, and, in any event, has her stamina to prove given her slightly disappointing performance in the Neptune. Her performance here, over two and a quarter miles, in February suggests that it should suit, but this just seems a shade beyond her, quality wise, at present.
Airlie Beach (10/1 William Hill)
Ryanair Gold Cup Novice Chase
I remain absolutely convinced that it’s worth taking Yorkhill on and his performance at Cheltenham did nothing to dissuade me from that, for all that he won. I am not the first, nor will I be the last, to suggest that Top Notch might have beaten him if he had jumped the second last a little better but, he didn’t, so here we are.
The same problems are still prevalent with Yorkhill that merited opposing him though – the keenness, whether or not he has the stomach for the fight and his tendency to jump left – so where he goes, value elsewhere will one day follow. The point about his fortitude might be a little harsh – the perceived weakness at Punchestown last year could equally be derivative of having had a hard season – but at 1/2 do you really want to be having any doubts at all?
There’s a few in here who probably can’t win – Attribution and Baily Cloud have twelve and fourteen pounds worth of improvement to find with the favourite and one who you would be brave to put full trust in – Anibale Fly – but the rest all have chances, to differing degrees.
I think the one that has the best chance is Noel Meade’s Road To Respect, whom appeared to dramatically improve for the better ground when winning the Mildmay of Flete (in its current guise, the actual name of which currently escapes me) and who had previously ‘won’ the race within a race that Acapella Bourgeois created in the Ten Up back in February. That fact has been perhaps a little underplayed, perhaps the opprobrium that was directed at the jockeys that weren’t Roger Loughran, but he still put eleven lengths between himself and Haymount (142) and sixteen and half lengths between him and Anibale Fly. That is no mean feat, and it would appear that he’s really come to himself as spring has rolled around. That’s not to say that he was any back number before – prior to that his form was reasonable enough, and defeats behind Some Plan and Min can probably be put down, with the benefit of hindsight, to his having been run over an inadequate trip but he now appears to have been the proverbial graded horse lurking in a handicap when last seen.
It’s time to put that theory to the test.
It’s also notable that Bryan Cooper has chosen him, rather than Ball D’Arc, who is rated two pounds higher. I suspect that is the right choice – Ball D’Arc having had a relatively hard race already this month – and it’s perhaps worth nothing that Road To Respect’s two best performances this year have come with him in the saddle. Hopefully that trend continues.
Road To Respect (6/1 – Paddy Power)
With best wishes,