Just over a week ago I had my right kidney removed so it’s hard to believe that I’m able to write this week’s Monday blog post. The pain and soreness are still there and, although each day I feel better, I’m pacing my way back to full fitness.
It was the final day of the British jumps season on Saturday at Sandown, which hosted its own Gold Cup, albeit a handicap version sponsored by online bookmaker Bet365. For those with longer memories, it was previously called the old Whitbread Gold Cup.
Talk is cheap but not for the bookies
Talkischeap, trained by Alan King, had been the ante-post gamble of the race early in the week. But the plunge on that horse was nothing compared to the pre-race plunge on West Approach, who had been backed from 25/1 into the 5/1 favourite at the off.
The quick ground, and the failure of the forecast rain to arrive before racing, meant there were five non-runners and a field of just 15 set off for the 3m 5f Bet365 Gold Cup.
Step Back, bidding to win the race for the second year running, was sent-off in the front from the off. Closely attended by Present Man. Top-weight Beware the Bear was never travelling from the start on the quick ground and was soon detached at the rear.
Last year’s winner saw off Present Man coming to the 13th, and his nearest challenger was then another previous winner in the Young Master. The 2016 winner had made a bad mistake at the second fence and almost lost his jockey. He was brought back into the race by jockey Sam Waley-Cohen and eventually took up the running at the 16th. He was then sent for home coming to three out.
Sadly, for his backers, it wasn’t to prove a winning moving move. If the jockey had looked behind him, he would have seen Talkischeap travelling powerfully with his jockey looking behind for non-existent dangers. It was just a case of when the button would be pushed on the 7-year-old. Jockey Wayne Hutchinson produced his mount perfectly to take the lead jumping the last. He then only had to push-out the 7-year-old on the run-in to win by an easy looking ten lengths.
The Young Master had no answer to Talkischeap’s powerful finish after the last, but stayed on to finish second. Long time leader Step Back, despite having weakened out of contention two out, was still able to hang on for third. In all truth, very few got into the race with the likes of Give Me A Copper and Rolling Dylan just plugging on for fourth & fifth respectably. The gamble of the race Western Approach plugged on into 6 th, but once again the 9-year-old’s jumping wasn’t up to scratch.
The winner won like the well-handicapped horse he clearly was, and was a welcome big Saturday winner for trainer Alan King.
National Hunt Season Review
Given it’s the end of the season, it’s the ideal time to look back on some of the highlights of this winter’s jumps season.
It’s been a strange jumps season. Caused in the main by the dry winter and a lack of rain. A slow burner that really didn’t take-off until the third day of the Cheltenham Festival, with the wins by Frodon and Paisley Park, followed by Willie Mullins‘s first Gold Cup win, with Al Boum Photo, on the Friday of the Festival.
My equine hero of the jumps season must be Tiger Roll, for his second successive win in the Grand National to become the first horse since Red Rum to win the world’s greatest steeplechase two years on the spin.
What a 2019 it’s been for the 9-year-old, who won a Grade 2 Hurdle at Navan before winning the Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham for the second successive year. He had been an easy winner of the race in 2018, but was even more impressive this time around.
A real “people’s horse,” who is young enough to win the Grand National for a third time in 2020, and whose improved form wouldn’t put him out of the Gold Cup picture should connections decide to go down that route.
Paul Nicholls celebrated a double on Saturday, with wins by Getaway Trump and Black Corton on the first two races on the Sandown card. The former gave lumps of weight away to his rivals to win the valuable novices handicap hurdle.
It was an 11th Champion Trainer Title for Paul Nicholls, who also won over £3,000,000 in prize money during the season that’s just ended.
Richard Johnson , for so long in the shadow of A P McCoy, won his 4th successive Champion Jockey Title. Johnson had managed to get his 200th winner at Perth on Friday, and will be a hot favourite for a fifth successive title next season. That said, his nearest rival Harry Skelton finished just 22 behind the Champ and, if she stays injury free, could get even closer in 2019/20.
Sadly, he couldn’t end the season with a final win on Saturday. As his mount, Wait For Me, was just beaten in the last when looking the most likely winner.
Bryony Frost was crowned Champion Conditional Jockey for the season. However, unlike Richard Johnson, she was able to end the season with a winner. She guided Black Corton to a win the second race on the Sandown card. It was Bryony’s first ride since returning from broken collar bone.
It’s been a great season for the young jockey, who not only had her first Grade 1 winner with Frodon in the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, but also rode 50 winners.
Punchestown brings the curtain down in Ireland
We may have said goodbye to the British Jumps season, but the Irish season still has a few jigs to dance before their season ends, with the five-day Punchestown, starting on Tuesday.
Here are a few pointers for those of you thinking of having a bet this week.
Since 2014 there have been 185 winners from 2522 runners. Willie Mullins has had 64 of those winners, and is clear leader numerically. Indeed, he’s had 35% of the winners from 15% of the total runners.
In second place, in terms of winners, isn’t Gordon Elliott but, perhaps surprisingly, Jessica Harrington with 17 winners from 115 runners.
Note the Harrington runners
It normally pays to note any of her runners at the Punchestown Festival and hopefully it will continue to be the case this week.
Her bumper runners are 1 winner from 34 runners 6 placed 18%, so concentrating on those of her runners in chase & hurdle races only, looks the way to go.
Those that had finished in the first four on their last start have provided punters with 14 winners from 48 runners 29% 21 placed 44%. If you had backed all such runners at the Punchestown Festival in the past five seasons, you would have made a profit of £71 to a £1 level stake at SP.