As ‘Aussie flu’ sweeps the country. I am writing this week’s column with a streaming nose and a vicious sore throat. Whether it’s the flu or just a common cold I am not sure, but there are plenty of bugs going around at the moment.
The weather hasn’t been that great either with plenty of rain last week around the country and Storm Eleanor battering parts of the UK. Not surprising then that weather took its toll on the jumps horse racing action so horses for your trackers are slightly thin on the ground this week.
This week’s column is a bit of a mix of eyecatchers and stats but I will start by looking back at my performance of the weekend which came from Naas on Sunday.
The Willie Mullins trained Next Destination got slightly mixed reviews for his win in the 2m 4f Grade 1 Novice Hurdle at Naas. Granted he wasn’t a margin winner and only beat the runner-up by a length at the finish. But you had to be impressed with the way he jumped and travelled to take the lead two from home. His final margin victory doesn’t do him justice as he was a fair few lengths superior to the runner-up.
Well, he’s very much on course for Cheltenham but which race? A clash with Samcro in the Ballymore Novices Hurdle looks the most likely target but he has enough speed for the Sky Bet Supreme and a strongly run 2m at Cheltenham could be perfect for the 6-year-old. This year’s Supreme has a very open look about it, with the bookies going 8/1 the field, so it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise in the world to see him drop in trip and takes in the first race at the Festival.
Is Sizing John Still A Gold Cup Contender?
The fall out from the poor performance of Gold Cup winner Sizing John at Leopardstown over Christmas continued last week as the Irish Racing Security Cheif confirmed that neither Sizing John or for that matter, Faugheen, where interfered with before there respective races. The social Media rumour mill had been in overdrive after both horses’ lacklustre runs and tests on both horses hadn’t found anything that could explain either’s poor performances.
Sizing John’s trainer Jessica Harrington has put her horses run down to a hard race he had when winning the John Durkan at Punchestown on his seasonal reappearance. This does seem plausible to me but there could also be another possible explanation. Most of her runners at Leopardstown ran below form so maybe the yard has been affected by a low-level bug.
I have also dug into the trainer’s recent record at the Leopardstown Christmas Festival and it’s not been a good one.
2017 – 0 wins from 23 runners
Place Strike Rate 26%
Granted this year was very poor but it’s hardly been a brilliant festival for the yard in the recent past either, as these results show:
2 winners from 22 runners
Strike Rate 9%
SP Loss -10
Place Strike Rate 23%
1 winner from 12 runners
Strike Rate 8%
SP Profit +3
Place Strike Rate 33%
1 winner from 13 runners
Strike Rate 8%
SP Profit/loss 0
Place Strike Rate 46%
0 wins from 8 runners
Place Strike Rate 12%
1 winner from 15 runners
Strike Rate 7%
Place Strike Rate 33%
5 winners from 70 runners
Strike Rate 7%
SP Loss -27.62
Place Strike Rate 30%
So there are plenty of reasons that can explain Sizing John’s run and the wilder conspiracy theories on the internet are just that, wild. If you still fancy him to retain his crown in March I wouldn’t be put off by this one poor run and I fully expect him to bounce back from this come better ground in the spring.
This Weeks Eyecatchers
As I mentioned at the start, this week has been a bit light on jumps eyecatchers. But here are four for your notebooks, one of them from the all-weather.
Monday 1st January
Romeo Brown – Nick Williams – The son of Yates was making his racecourse debut in the listed bumper that closed the card on New Year’s Day at Cheltenham. The 4-year-old looked well before the race and ran an excellent race to finish 3rd behind to race-fit rivals. Not surprisingly his inexperience showed as he was a bit outpaced 6f from home but he staying on well at the finish. On the evidence of this run, he should get further when he goes hurdling. It will be interesting to see if connections keep the gelding to bumpers or go over hurdles this season. Looks a nice long-term project for hurdles but if he stays in bumpers there is a race to be won with him.
Friday 5th January
Top Beak – Michael Attwater – Just 1 win from 20 runs so far from the 5-year-old and he is 0 wins from 5 runs 2 placed on the synthetics doesn’t make great reading. He was a shade unlucky when finishing well from the rear over 1m 4f at Lingfield three starts back and wasn’t disgraced when finishing 6th, upped to Class 4 company, back at the same venue, would have finished closer but didn’t get a clear run a furlong out. Back into a Class 5 handicap, he was the only runner to give an improving horse a race in this 1m 4f handicap but just got nabbed for 2nd in the shadow of the post. He continues to run well and looks on a competitive mark to win a moderate all-weather handicap over 1m 2f/1m 4f.
Saturday 6th January
Gassin Golf – Kerry Lee – The 9-year-old is 1 win from 23 runs over hurdles but he has placed 13 times which shows he is hard to win with but runs consistently well. His one an only win came at Newbury back in March 2015 and he now races off a 13lb lower mark. He was last of 8 on his seasonal reappearance at Ayr at the beginning of November and this was his first since that poor run. He was unlucky to come up against two progressive horses but ran really well to finish 3rd on going that would have been plenty soft enough for him, his sole win came on good to soft. Given a patient ride by Brian Hughes, he travelled as well as anything in the race but just found the leading pair to quick in the run in. He is well handicapped on the best of his form from the spring of 2015 and on the evidence of this run, there is a handicap hurdle in him when all the cards fall right.
Sunday 7th January
Peoples Park – Tom Taaffe – Showed up much better here, jumping well enough from the front, this was a step in the right direction for the 9-year-old. He was still in with a chance at the last and still found plenty for pressure in the run-in but had to settle for 3rd at the finish. The soft to heavy ground would have been testing enough for him, as before this race he was 0 wins from 10 runs 1 placed on soft or worse ground. Both his best two performance over fences have come on good or good to yielding, going right-handed at Fairyhouse and Punchestown. He is back on a winnable mark based on his best form of last season and is one to watch out for when gets better ground.
Until next week. All that’s left now is to wish you a profitable week’s betting.