It’s nice to be on the right side of fortune for once!
I think I’d be had pushed to say anything other than that Yorkhill would’ve beaten Road To Respect with anything approaching a competent jump at the last, but, as this column has been on the wrong end of some painful reverses, I don’t feel too bad about it!
The one thing that I did think was odd however was swift everyone was to continue to anoint Yorkhill as a Gold Cup winner in waiting – despite his quirks – when we are a mere six weeks or so out from the majority taking the view that Might Bite was the lay of the festival because of his foibles. I suppose it’s one of those things that irks me a little – how quickly people will move to conclude one thing but sometimes without consideration of logic, reason or the even handed application of the two.
In reality though, they are probably questions for another day.
The matter at hand is the current jumps season, which is now reaching its dying embers.
With that in mind, there will be less and less from this blog through the summer months – barring some occasional reappearances for the classics, and perhaps Royal Ascot – but, as has been said before, jumps racing is my passion and it is what drives me to write.
This week, in the spirit of winding down, I’m just going to take a look at the Scottish Grand National.
So, without further ado, here goes:
The first thing to note is that it’s an open race – the fact that the favourite is 9/1 shows that – and with that in mind, there must be some value somewhere!
There’s going to a degree of support for Vicente, if only for the simple reason that he reappears from the same mark as when victorious last year. The advantages to that are multi-faceted and obvious – the mark is clearly workable, the track and trip are to his liking and it ties in with the widely held belief that he is a spring horse. That’s perhaps the most concerning aspect, because faith in the accuracy of that final clause is almost the only reason that you’d want to back him at the moment. Objectively viewed, his form has been very disappointing since this race twelve months ago, including two of his three career falls, to the point where his market position is hard to justify. Take, for example, his form going into the race last year – 3145 – which significantly more appealing than his form this – F669F – and at a certain point, you perhaps have to take the view that a) he’s not the same betting proposition this time around and b) that his performance last year might have left a mark. Somewhat cynically, you might also say that John Hales’ decision to sell him was an indicia of the same. His early fall in the Grand National puts me off too, if only for the reason that it’s likely he’d be trained for the day (having regard to Paul Nicholls’ comments in the preceding months) and it’s tough to imagine that he could’ve been kept ticking over at his absolute peak in the two weeks since.
As a wider point, it may be that his run in the National Hunt Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham is equally causative of that form slide as running here – the thinking being that sometimes promising staying novice form isn’t easily replicated at extreme trips – and with that in mind I’d perhaps urge a note of caution about Southfield Royale, whose form this season is 70F, but was 2112 excluding the festival last year.
Personally my preference is for Battle Of Shiloh, who I think should be a shorter price than he is. He is Tom George’s only runner at this Ayr meeting, and it would seem unlikely that he’s travelled all that way just as a day out. He’s naturally unexposed, having only had a small number of career starts – one point to point, two over hurdles and three over fences – and I think the present assessment that he has plateaued has been reached too hastily. The form of his Newcastle win looks pretty strong – the second, Hainan, won next time out and then nearly won off a mark a stone higher subsequent to that and the third, Final Nudge, won twice off lower marks before falling when looking like the winner in running during the Midlands National – off a higher mark than he had been when encountering Battle Of Shiloh. The form of his run at Chepstow, where he fell, is also a positive factor, as counterintuitive as that may sound. Flintham rather dragged the race apart in terms of a cogent shape, and perhaps Battle Of Shiloh suffered for that, but it’s worth noting that his rival there all but won the Reynoldstown the time after and that Join The Clan was an easy winner at Fakenham earlier in the week.
The problem may be that he’s wrong at the weights with Premier Bond, if you take their form through Final Nudge, but that presupposes that Premier Bond shows no ill effects from a hard race in the Kim Muir, and the fact that Battle Of Shiloh has been kept fresh suggests that he may able to defy that, to say nothing of the fact that this is likely to have been his plan, rather than a potential afterthought. It’s an argument that I can see naturally flows both ways – Premier Bond holds great appeal because he appears so well off at the weights with a horse with significant talent, but there is a chance that the combination of untapped potential and freshness trumps that obvious advantage.
Of the remainder, Dancing Shadow is overpriced in view of his run in the Edinburgh National – his run at Cheltenham was clearly not his true form – but I think that this is a race that one could all too easily tie themselves up in knots trying to find the winner of. There’s perhaps an element of this race that lends itself to speedy analysis, perhaps by taking the view that Seldom Inn is much better at Kelso or Newcastle, or that Arpege D’Alene is not one to be trusted (an argument I find a little tough to take, because his form this season has been okay) or even that Fine Rightly will be disadvantaged by the ground.
I think the thing that I can’t escape from is how rare it is to find a horse – who has obviously been targeted at the race – with form figures like Battle Of Shiloh’s (1111F) available at such a large price. He is, in many ways, the identikit selection of this column – a last time out faller, whose form gets stronger the more you look at it – and it would be nice if he could prove that there’s method in the madness!
Battle Of Shiloh 28/1 (Paddy Power)