Weekend Review: 23rd January 2017
Mother Nature cruelly intervened and Ascot’s card on Saturday fell victim to the frost. The Grade 1 Clarence House Stakes is now due to be run at Cheltenham this Saturday.
On Saturday, former Champion Hurdle winner Jezki returned from a mammoth 632 day absence to win at Navan. He showed no ill-effects from the injuries that kept him off the track for so long, travelling extremely well, in turn suggesting that his ability is still firmly intact. The style in which he won will have pleased his connections’ and this opens up plenty of options for him during the ‘Spring Festivals’; he evidently still has the pace to be competitive over 2 miles combined with his proven aptitude to stay 3 miles. The next logical target for him will either be the Champion Hurdle or the Stayers Hurdle, with the betting suggesting his best chance would be in the latter.
Staying in Ireland, this time on Sunday at Leopardstown, the star attraction was last year’s Neptune winner Yorkhill. Despite winning at extremely prohibitive odds, the initial reaction from pundits and fans alike on social media was that it was an underwhelming performance. Yorkhill appeared to make a couple of mistakes and displayed a propensity to jump left at his fences. He is now a short priced favourite for the JLT, understandably, in a division lacking depth. His supporters shouldn’t have too many concerns about his jumping unless he runs against top opposition at a right-handed course such as Punchestown. The stronger the pace the better for Yorkhill and it would be some sight to see him take on Altior and his stablemate, Min, over 2 miles.
Reverting back to Saturday and over at Haydock, Waiting Patiently maintained his unbeaten record over fences. It was yet another fine ride from his jockey Brian Hughes who is enjoying a fantastic season. In the immediate aftermath, his trainer suggested that 2 miles could well be his best trip.
The tough and admirable The New One won the Champion Hurdle Trial for the third successive year. The horse is a model of consistency and continued his excellent record outside of Grade 1 company. The conundrum for his connections’ now is whether they have another crack at the Champion Hurdle or step him up in trip to 3 miles for the Stayers Hurdle.
Many had high hopes for Bristol De Mai this year and he rectified a couple of costly defeats with a smooth success in the Peter Marsh Chase, barely coming off the bridle at any stage to record an ultimately facile success. It’s perhaps notable that his two stand-out performances have come at Haydock Park. He now has the option of going for either the Ryanair or the Gold Cup at the Cheltenham Festival. He would be of more interest in the Gold Cup, especially if the ground came up soft, where he’d find it easier to get in to a nice rhythm.
Despite plenty of top class performances, arguably the most impressive of the day came from the Harry Fry trained Neon Wolf. The subject of sustained support in the market in the morning and prior to the off, Neon Wolf had no trouble dispatching the hitherto unbeaten Elgin with consummate ease. He put in a proficient round of jumping and is one to firmly keep onside.
In a year where the novice hurdle division lacks any standout candidates, he makes considerable appeal for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and can be backed at 14/1 with our betting partner, bet365 for the race.