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Horses For The Notebook Following Busy Weekend Of Racing

Tuesday 21st February 2017

Top racing columnist Maddy Playle (@mp_horseracing) is back with her latest blog, and there is plenty to talk about once again. Maddy looks back on another busy weekend of racing, and picks out her horses to follow going forward...

Ascot 13:15 - Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle

Upon watching this race, most people would probably consider the winner Beyond Conceit as an eye-catcher. Nico De Boinville had his hands full from an early stage but his mount managed to sustain a strong challenge to claim the lead in the shadows of the post. He is an ex-flat eight year old however, and doesn’t have the profile of a horse I’d like to follow going forward.

Topofthegame will already be in most people’s notebooks after he won his maiden hurdle at the track in mid-December and cemented that when running a promising race behind Wholestone at Cheltenham last time. He travelled into the race best of all and looked as if he would have the field covered coming to the second last but again couldn’t quite follow through with his effort. He is a giant of a horse who Paul Nicholls has compared to Denman, and in all likeliness he probably just needs time to develop, but for now at least I would err on the side of caution.

My horse to follow from the race is Evan Williams’s De Dollar Man. The Rucker’s have so many promising young horses at the moment but this gelding by Vinnie Roe would have to be one of the best of them. He came into the race off the back of two impressive wins in small field, heavy ground events, which perhaps explains why he started at 14/1.

Nevertheless, I think this race was a good quality renewal. The front three pulled clear of Acting Lass who has form behind Finian’s Oscar, but found this a little too hot once more. On the other hand, De Dollar Man showed he has what it takes to mix it at this level. His jumping technique really impressed me as he hurdled with the boldness of a staying chaser. Although he was third, he was only beaten ¼ length, and deserves to be taken seriously wherever he goes next. He is entered in both the Neptune (25/1) and the Albert Bartlett (33/1).

Personally, I would head to the latter with him, as all he appeared to do on Saturday was stay, but even then I’m sure chasing next season will be the priority for this exciting six year old, and I’m not sure I’d want to argue with that.

Haydock 13:30 - Betfred TV Victor Ludorum Juvenile Hurdle

Don Bersy was an impressive winner of the Victor Ludorum giving weight away all-round. He jumped and travelled well and toughed it out when challenged under a sensible ride by James Davies. His main rival in the betting was Neil Mulholland’s ex-flat raider Most Celebrated, who blew away the opposition on hurdling debut at Wetherby to score by 28 lengths. The truth in the matter was the form of that race wasn’t anything spectacular, and his keenness got the better of him up in class on Saturday. He remains a horse with potential but needs to put it all together.

The fourth and final finisher Final Choice looked like he could be a good horse when winning a nice Juvenile Hurdle in December but has appeared to regress since. All of this shows it probably wasn’t a strong renewal, but the second placed Zalvados could be a less exposed horse to keep an eye on moving forward. Although his form figures now read 222 in this country, I have no doubting his temperament as he tried to lay it down to Don Bersy in the straight after travelling into the race with promise.

He was giving the winner 8lb, but he was keen enough early on and looked as if he warmed to the task and learned plenty as the race progressed. With juveniles, I like to look for potential signs of improvement and he fits the bill.

13:50 Ascot - Sodexo Reynoldstown Novices' Chase

Only twice have I said to myself “I think I’ve got this” upon my horse jumping the last. One of those times was with Perfect Candidate at Cheltenham in December and the other was with Flintham on Saturday.

Don’t do it, folks. I mentioned Label Des Obeaux as one to watch in my previous blog and strongly fancied him for the this race before he was declared a non runner.

I then turned my attentions to the dogged Flintham in a race which was always going to be about stamina. Yes, the Bradstocks are lucky to be attached to such an illustrious bloodline with Plaid Maid, but credit must go to their team as watching their horses jump fences is just joyous. Alike many racehorses, Flintham isn’t the most talented beast in the world, but for what he lacks in class he makes up for in accuracy and sheer will.

These attributes will serve him well up in grade and I often find bold jumping front runners can gain huge advantages – see Village Vic at Cheltenham. I have never been a particularly big fan of the favourite Arpege D’Alene, who frankly strikes me as soft and slow.

Fletchers Flyer is very good on his day, if a little inconsistent, and looked dangerous momentarily before his penalty told, and Laurium just doesn’t have what it takes at this level. The winner Bigbadjohn slipped up in the Sky Bet Handicap Chase at Doncaster when beaten favourite, but looked a solid enough novice behind superstar Thistlecrack before then.

It is to his credit he managed to win despite lacking fluency in his jumping, but going forward this would worry me as he jumped right at Newbury and then left at Ascot. He doesn’t strike me as straightforward, but straightforward is something Flintham certainly is.

I think a more galloping track and testing conditions will suit this dour half-brother to Coneygree. He is currently priced at 40/1 for the RSA Chase and 33/1 for the National Hunt Chase at the Festival – I would certainly prefer the latter with him, but doubt he has sufficient speed to win a race of that calibre on typical spring ground. You’d be silly to discount him in staying handicap chases next winter, though.

Flintham in action during the 2016 Pertemps Network Final .
Flintham in action during the 2016 Pertemps Network Final .

Ascot 15:00 - Les Ambassadeurs Casino Handicap Hurdle

King is the word in this race, as my two to watch going forward both hail from his stable. Firstly though, I must note what an incredible job Harry Fry has done to get Air Horse One to deliver after disappointing on many occasions. He is a small horse though, and I’m not sure he has much more improvement in him. Divine Spear has ran creditably in a few big handicap hurdles now and looks one for fences next season, judged on his massive leap at the last.

These two raced clear of Templeross and Prime Venture who both ran with credit, but it is My Khaleesi who finished in fifth, who caught my eye. I saw her dead heat in her Cheltenham bumper with Irish Roe, and she seems a hardy mare with plenty of guts. She finished second behind Colin’s Sister (who was an impressive winner of the Grade 2 Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at Sandown on Friday) before bravely fending off Little Miss Poet to win her Maiden Hurdle at Fontwell.

Despite her relative inexperience, she travelled into the race smartly and looked set to lay down a decent challenge before tiring. I think she will have learnt an awful lot from that run and I would be surprised if Alan King couldn’t pick up a nice prize with her somewhere along the line.

This moves us on nicely to the return of Ordo Ab Chao, who was returning from a 680 day absence. He absolutely tanked through the race in the hands of Wayne Hutchinson, and made up ground rapidly before the home turn. He was short of room there and crashed into the running rail before fading tamely up the straight. He may have finished 12th of 15, but the talent he showcased mid race is more than enough to suggest he is still well handicapped.

Presuming all is well with him off the back of this run, he looks one to be nailed on for a big handicap this season. He is entered for the Albert Bartlett at the Festival and is priced at 50/1, but I would much prefer him for one of the handicaps. He was running off 137 on Saturday, so it is doubtful he would get in to the Coral Cup, which is a shame as it would have his name written all over it. The 3m1/2f Grade 3 at Aintree may well appeal though, as King tends to do well at that meeting and I think the track would suit Ordo Ab Chao’s running style.

Wherever he runs, let’s just remind ourselves of the Novice Hurdle he won in the January of 2015. He beat Value At Risk, Vago Collonges, Robinsfirth, Some Buckle, Present View and a certain Thistlecrack, with Native River also in the race before falling two out. It is easy to get carried away, but you’d be hard pressed to find a form line more exciting than that – discard him at your peril!

My Khaleesi battles it out with Irish Roe in the High Sheriff Of Gloucestershire's Mares' Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race
My Khaleesi battles it out with Irish Roe in the High Sheriff Of Gloucestershire's Mares' Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race
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