Here we go again. The greatest NH racing on the planet. This has been a season affected by 2 viruses, Covid19 and what ever ails some stables. Only half of the main trainers are in any sort of consistent form so that will colour my selections. Skelton, Nicholls, K Bailey, Pipe, all going well. Tizzard and Henderson are both still erratic while O. Murphy, Paulton, Fry and Longsdon have vanished from the scene.
One of the aspects of top class racing is the level of drop out by winners of Group or Grade 1 races. I remember writing to Lord Oaksey in his Telegraph journalist days about 60 years ago pointing out how few Cheltenham winners or placed horses ran in the following season and nothing has changed.
Consider Faugheen, Douvan and Thistlecrack, Jetski at the top level. They might win another race or 2 but never reach the same level as on the big day. That is why horses like Arkle, Best Mate, Big Bucks, Bula etc. were so exceptional as they kept coming back at the same level year after year.
Last year, there was a battle royal between Mullins and Nicholls for the British trainers title so Willie sent an army of horses over for Aintree and Sandown. This year he is in a fight with Gordon Elliot for the Irish title so Aintree is very low in his priorities while Paul Nicholls is in a similar close battle with Henderson in Britain so neither of them will be paying attention to opportunities at Punchestown.
Can't believe it is so long since I posted but in case anyone is interested, a few thoughts for the Open Meeting. A little rain has arrived at last so hopefully we will be spared the 3 and 4 runner fields of recent days.
BV Gold Cup. Frodon has been a long term plot for this and will be a contender but it is still a big ask for a 4yo novice chaser. Taquin du Seuil looks interesting and has been backed but if More Than that is back to his best, it could be a Jonjo 1/2.
Novice Chasers. Thistlecrack will be watched with keen interest if he turns out. If Identity Thief comes over, we will get an early idea of the relative merits of Irish and English 2 mile novices. Altior is an exciting entry.
Staying Handicap chase. Sausolito Sunrise has top weight but has earned it.
Plenty of significant racing this weekend but once that is over we just have Newmarket Dewhurst and the Ascot Champions day before jumping takes priority. Without a high profile horse like Frankel, there has been a spread of wins by a variety of trainers and riders in group 1 races which is surely good for the sport. We have seen glimpses of quality from the likes of Al Khazeem, Lethal Force and Remote but none have really dominated. Fillies have looked very good and Sky Lantern, Just the Judge and latterly Treve have looked high class. Some very expensive 2yos contest the 2 sales races at Newmarket and the Redcar 2yo trophy but none of them look better than Group 3 at best.
2 days to go and it looks like soft ground for Tuesday at least. I respect My Tent or Yours but my bet is still Dodging Bullets who has been tested at the highest level. The Arkle looks a 2 horse race and I hope Overturn can win but a no bet race for me. In the Champion, I backed Cinders and Ashes too early and he has not yet shown the form to win but you never know. My main bet is Zarkandar. In ther lastrace I am on The Druids Nephew and Arthurs Pass who could be the dark one in there. I have no bets on day 2 so far. Too many uncertainties.
I have backed Module in the Jewson but if Dynaste turns up, I think it will be in vain. I am giving Peddlers Cross another chance in the World Hurdle. He won the Neptune easily enough and although he had the pace to be second in the CH, he should stay.
Bobs Worth looks banker material in the Gold Cup but apart from that day 4 will be difficult. I have 7 festival runners from my 10 to follow so hopeful of plenty of points. Just a shame Big Bucks is missing.
Three very informative days at Cheltenham although the going may be softer than usual. Searching gallops in some races meant only a few finishers and once they turned for home, many were legless. Al Ferof showede a big improvement for another year to mature and a longer distance. The need to travel easily in top jump races is underestimated and Grands Crus could never quite get into the race over the shorter trip. Dynaste, Far West and Our Father looked decent horses, Goulanes might be interesting if he qualifies for the pertemps final.
Dodging Bullets did well to win a muddling race but the form is very suspect as they only raced for half a mile. Olofi won a very good Greatwood but is still only rated 136 so a long way from CH form. Coneygree was easily the most interesting newcomer to this level. A brother of Carruthers, he could prove even better than him and on similar ground should be a leading contender for staying novice of the year.
The defeat of Camelot proves once again that keeping horses fresh and in form from May to September is not easy. Godolphin often win autumn races with horses that have little racing until July and their Group runners need watching from now on. The Hannon 2yo's looked a bit below par until recently but now seem unbeatable and seem to be improving for every run. Sir Michael Stoute has had a few maidens and well handicapped 3yo winners but this is surely his worst batch of horses for 20 years.
Getting close to the end of the Games and as usual the GB performance is a mixture of inspiration and toat failure. Yes it is our best ever and I am proud of what Team GB have achieved but when you see Phillips Oduwu, goldie Sayers and others clearly not fit to compete nad the sprinters failing miserably apart from Adam Gemile, you despair of some people. If Brailsford was in charge, half of the athletics team would be sent packing but the rest would probably win medals. The equestrian teams did a great job and it was tragic for Nick Skelton to lose a medal after just one fence down in 6 rounds of jumping. If the team rounds were counted he would have won easily.
Two days of competitive racing and no doubt there will be plenty of winners coming from the also rans. The ones to note for me are:
Tullius. Provided that a hard race first time does not leave a mark, he could win more nice handicaps and perhaps a listed. He will go up to around 98.
Dunaden made good late ground and I got the impression that was the plan. Should win some very good staying races.
Camelot did well from an unpromising position. The English 3yo milers are a moderate lot.
I thought that Mince was a shade unlucky to be beaten as the winner got first run and had the benefit of a run. hey will both go up a lot in the weights though.
Caucus ran really well and if they can keep him sound, he could have a good season.
Izzi Top has made massive improvement and is very game.
Lightening Pearl didn't stay but could be worth backing if coming back to 6 or 7 furlongs on better ground.
New Pearl cost a lot at breeze up and looked very good. A Royal Ascot banker.