Weekend Review - 16th January 2017
Welcome to the maiden running of our ‘Weekend Review’ series! Each week we will look back at the standout performances from the weekend, along with an outlook to their future targets.
Despite the snow making an appearance earlier last week, Kempton Park and Warwick survived unscathed and played host to two extremely competitive cards.
The Kempton Park card kicked off with an intriguing Juvenile Hurdle, where expensive French import, Poker Play, made his UK debut for David Pipe. Despite travelling well, if not a bit keen, Poker Play proved no match for the Alan King trained Fidux, who maintained his unbeaten record over hurdles. In terms of Cheltenham Festival targets, undoubtedly the Triumph Hurdle will come under consideration for connections’ of both horses; although I’m sure they’ll have one eye on how the handicapper reacts given the Fred Winter would be a viable alternative.
Whilst some may have been disappointed that Poker Play got beaten, this flashy chestnut with a distinguishable white face gave his hurdles plenty of air and, given his size and scope, he rates as an exciting prospect to follow, particularly when stepped up in trip and sent over the larger obstacles.
Sam Twiston-Davies enjoyed a fruitful day at Kempton with three winners. The first was Foxtail Hill, who put in a quite remarkable performance given that he showed an alarming propensity to jump left at virtually every fence. It was a courageous performance from the horse and a skilled show of horsemanship from Twiston-Davies to win - despite forfeiting a huge amount of ground on a sharp, right-handed track. A return to a left-handed track surely beckons.
Ballymalin proved to be a much more straight forward ride for Twiston-Davies. A gritty and tenacious front running display, he repelled all challengers in spite of giving upwards of 10lbs to the majority of his rivals. Far from outlandish to suggest he will become a standing dish in many of the top staying handicappers over fences in years to come.
Twiston-Davies’ hat-trick was rounded off by a smooth and ultimately resounding success aboard Our Kaempfer. Armed with patience, he travelled supremely well in rear under an often motionless but confident Twiston-Davies, Our Kaempfer closed on the leaders with consummate ease three out. Despite a final fence blunder, it was a comfortable victory and the 3m handicap chase on the first day of the Cheltenham Festival looks like the next logical target.
The feature race on the card, the Lanzarote Hurdle, was won by the JP McManus owned Modus. Narrowly beaten in a couple of valuable handicap hurdles earlier this season, he got in to a comfortable rhythm and put in a visually impressive success. By all accounts, he also recorded some eye-catching sectionals and a strong pace in the Coral Cup will play to his strengths.
Over at Warwick, the Harry Fry trained American put in an exemplary round of jumping to win the Listed Novice Chase. To the naked eye, American appeared to put his rivals to the sword on the second circuit with some slick leaps down the back straight, where realistically, the race was won. In the immediate aftermath, his trainer nominated the RSA or the 4 Miler at the Festival as his potential Cheltenham Festival targets. Fry also suggested that long term he may be a prime candidate for a race such as the Welsh National.
Slightly later in the card, Willoughby Court was the subject of sustained gamble, having been as big as 8/1 in the morning. Sent off at 11/4 he duly made all the running and won decisively. Taking nothing away from the horse, Willoughby Court was the beneficiary of a very easy lead in conditions that suited and it will be interesting to monitor his progress hereafter. Peregrine Run’s winning streak came to an abrupt end, but with the testing ground against him, interest in him will be rekindled at many of the Festivals in the UK and Ireland when he returns to better ground during the Spring.
The most impressive performance of the day was the Lucinda Russell trained One For Arthur in the Betfred Classic Chase. He deserves extra recognition given he was hampered early on by a faller at the second fence. Racing in rear for the most part before making relentless headway down the back straight on the final circuit, he turned for home as if he had just joined in and then powered to the line to win well.
Prior to this victory, he had run well over the National fences in the Becher Chase, finishing 5th, beaten three lengths. He looks likely to head straight to Aintree for the Grand National in April. His running style of being held up would be an obvious concern in the National, but as long as he doesn’t get too far back in the pack and avoids trouble, he holds strong credentials. He can be backed at 25/1 with our betting partner bet365 for the Grand National.
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