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3 December 2013 – TOP RACING ACROSS THE COUNTRY
There was top class National Hunt action both north and south on Saturday courtesy of Newbury and Newcastle.
JP McManus had to take the good with the bad as his best two novice hurdlers from last season took their first steps into championship company, and My Tent Or Yours and At Fishers Cross are on the list of horses discussed.
It must be a nice feeling to be able to win a race for the fifth consecutive occasion with a supposedly ‘inferior’ horse, writes Martin Greenwood .
The Stewart Family own not only the legendary Big Buck’s, winner of the Bet365 Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury from 2009 to 2012 inclusive, but also the ‘pretty good’ Celestial Halo who, like stable-companion Tidal Bay, can still hold his own in top company despite advancing years.
Relatively new to staying trips, Celestial Halo found Solwhit too good in last season’s World Hurdle but has since won the Prix La Barka at Auteuil and the latest running of the Long Distance at Newbury, both under new stable jockey Daryl Jacob who has ridden ‘Halo’ for his last five victories.
The latest victory had something of a hollow ring to it but that’s not Celestial Halo’s fault. Making all, which he sometimes does, he jumped easily the best of the quartet who consented to race and had the disappointing pair Medinas and Reve de Sivola put to bed a long way out.
Only the unexposed odds-on shot At Fishers Cross, one of last season’s top staying novices, posed any sort of threat to the winner but he lost all chance when screwing mid-air on jumping two out and stumbling badly on landing.
Truth be told, At Fishers Cross hadn’t jumped fluently throughout, a trait which was often evident last season, though he was only just behind Celestial Halo when the incident happened. It’s not easy to be sure what would have been the outcome had the mishap not occurred, and for now I have taken the view that there would have been very little between them.
Race standards suggest somewhere in the region of the mid 160s for the winner so Celestial Halo is now up 4lb to 165, a mark he won a handicap off back in 2009, and the same as Solwhit. At Fishers Cross was in receipt of 4lb on Saturday so his mark is also up 4lb to 161 with the promise of more to come, especially if his jumping becomes more fluent.
Tent pitched at the top
On a week which saw a number of decent winners in the 2m novice division, most notably the smart Flat performer Mijhaar, who raised the pulse with a fine display on his Friday Doncaster debut, the week’s spotlight undoubtedly fell on a fascinating Stanjames.com Fighting Fifth Hurdle on Saturday’s Newcastle card, writes Dave Dickinson.
In justifying odds-on favouritism the imposing My Tent Or Yours didn’t have to quite reproduce his current handicap mark of 160, but his smooth display showed that he has summered well and he is likely to take high rank through the winter.
The race itself actually proved quite straightforward to rate with the 151-rated Grumeti finishing a length in front of Cotton Mill, who appears to have returned to his best mark of 150 in headgear for the first time.
The disappointment was the second-favourite Melodic Rendezvous, who shaped as if things were happening just a little too quickly for him. The form of his win in the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton three weeks ago had taken a knock the previous weekend when Far West ran poorly at Haydock and off the back of this run I have dropped the Wincanton race, meaning Jeremy Scott’s gelding now has a rating of 152.
Credit should go to four Northern yards for supporting such a big conditions race and giving punters an eight-runner field. John Quinn’s filly Cockney Sparrow, coming second continues to progress and got herself some Grade 1 black type and a new rating of 147. On the maths it can be argued that Stormy Weather and Rock Relief ran better than their current ratings but both remain unchanged and I have dropped Duke of Navan 3lb to 145.
Tat’s the way to do it
Following a losing run of almost two years Tatenen returned to form with a bang in the Bet365 Handicap Chase at Newbury, writes Graeme Smith.
The Stewart Family’s nine-year-old had been sent off favourite for the Arkle and finished second in the Grade 1 Maghull in his novice chasing days when with Paul Nicholls, but he’d really struggled for form in 2012/13 and was taking advantage of a mark some 19lb lower than he’d started that campaign from on Saturday.
Conditions at Newbury made for a fair test but this was one of several handicaps on the card where the field didn’t really string out and I’ve rated Tatenen for value more than the bare eight-length margin over Carrigmorna King having been impressed with just how quickly he powered away after being produced two from home – he was still only three lengths clear at the last.
A new mark of 140 represents a 12lb rise and his trainer Richard Rowe nominated a return visit to Ascot in January as his target for a race he won in both 2011 and 2012, from marks of 137 and 143 respectively.
Carrigmorna King also came in for a rise following his fine effort in second place. A winner over hurdles on his previous start, Philip Hobbs’ seven-year-old is relatively unexposed at 2m6f and beyond and I’m sure there’ll be people out there who expect further improvement from him if he can brush up on his jumping.
Head of Handicapping, Phil Smith will be discussing the Hennessy Gold Cup in his blog.