Last week’s E.W. Selection, Starchitect, put up a brave effort to only go down by a neck to the Nigel Twiston-Davies trained, Splash of Ginge, in The BetVictor Gold Cup. The 10/1 shot looked the most likely winner before two out, but meeting both fences wrong, he just couldn’t get past the Naunton runner who revelled in the testing conditions. Neither was Starchitect’s cause helped by the overnight rise of 5lbs in the weights, putting him over the 11 stone mark, a barrier which has become increasingly difficult to overcome in this contest. However it was the Pipe horse’s best effort to date over fences, and he is one to bear in mind for The Caspian Caviar Chase over course and distance in a couple of weeks time.
Despite there being only seven runners declared for Saturday’s Grade1 Betfair Chase, it is the classiest field of chasers assembled so far this season, and any race featuring The Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, Sizing John, the wonderful Cue Card and the rising star, Bristol De Mai has to be worth travelling a long way to see. Not that Saturday’s contest is by any means a three horse contest with none of the other four runners easy to dismiss, and with a £1000000 bonus on offer if any of the contenders can go on to win The King GeorgeV1 Chase on Boxing Day, and the Gold Cup itself, expect a hard fought contest at the weekend.
When trained by Henry De Bromhead, Sizing John was mostly campaigned at around two miles, and indeed he scored a Grade1 victory over the trip back in December 2014. However since Jessica Harrington assumed responsibilities, he has been trained as a stayer, and has won all of his last four races. The victory in Cheltenham’s Blue Riband was fantastic and connections showed great confidence in the horse, not to pull up stumps for the season, but go for the Irish equivalent at The Punchestown Festival five weeks later. He duly delivered, albeit narrowly, beating the tough Djakadam by a short head. He hasn’t been out since that stirring Punchestown win two hundred and thirteen days ago, but the talented Jessica Harrington knows how to get them fit first time up, and reports the horse to have had three trips out to racecourses, including a two mile workout over fences at Naas, and a mile and a half gallop at Punchestown last Sunday. Sizing John has won twice in the past after a similar break so a near peak performance can be expected on Saturday.
The all conquering Gordon Elliot runs his 9yo, Outlander. He is not the most consistent of animals and surprised many when winning a Grade1 Chase from Road to Respect at Down Royal three weeks ago at odds of 16/1, although it has to be said, that the favourite didn’t run his race, and the runner up looked unsuited by the right handed track. He is well held by Sizing John on Cheltenham and Punchestown running but it is worth remembering that this inconsistent type put in an excellent effort when beating the very useful, Don Poli at Leopardstown last Christmas. He seems to be at his best when the mud is flying so should have his conditions on Saturday.
The Nigel Twiston-Davies trained, Bristol De Mai did the Oddsguru followers a good turn when winning The Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby three weeks ago. He responded bravely to maximum pressure from the saddle, and put up his best performance to date, getting home by 1/2L from stable companion Blaklion to whom he was conceding six pounds. As he usually needs an outing to bring him to peak fitness, further progress can be anticipated, and with the memory of his hugely impressive, twenty two lengths victory over the course, (3m soft) last January, still fresh in the mind, the upwardly mobile 6yo, looks the one to beat. (I hope some of you took our advice, (Badgers Ale Blog) and availed of the 4/1 on offer at the time.)
The evergreen Cue Card won this in 2013, 2015, and last year, and he seemed to be travelling as well as anything when tipping over at the fifteenth in The Charlie Hall. It was too far from home to draw any firm conclusions but the fact remains that it was the eleven years old, and rising twelve, Cue Card’s second fall in three races, and I just wonder if, after thirty eight races over fences, the old warrior is crying enough.
The step up in trip should help Garry Moore’s 7yo, Traffic Fluide and as he handles heavy ground is worth a second look but does need to find the best part of a stone.
Selection : Bristol De Mai
Danger : Sizing John