Pointing to Winners 2013/14

From the fields to the Festival? Ten horses bidding for glory

From the fields to the Festival?

The pointing field has produced many of National Hunt racings best horses, in recent years the likes of Gold Cup winners Imperial Commander, Denman, War Of Attrition, Kicking King and Best Mate, all of which began their careers between the flags in Ireland; as well as the Robert Alner-trained Cool Dawn who started his career in UK points.

In his opening piece for geegeez.co.uk, point-to-point expert and enthusiast, Martin Pennington, highlights some of the ex-pointers he believes are likely to prove profitable to follow in the coming months, on both sides of the Irish Sea:

Robin Will (Dark Moondancer X Gleep Will)

Richard Woollacott’s gelding started last season as a maiden in points but the application of the hood has seen him make a meteoric rise through the amateur ranks.  The eight year old son of Dark Moondancer remained a maiden through the 2012 season – one which was littered with non-completions but the fitting of the hood for a maiden at Chipley Park in early February saw the French-bred gelding come good at the sixth attempt.

John Mathias held him up for much of the race but they had come well clear of the field when Robin Will jumped badly left at the final fence to score by an easy ten lengths for trainer Kayley Jones.  Robin Will then went to the South Pool Harriers meeting at Buckfastleigh on 17th February where he again scored easily after being sent off a 9/4 joint favourite under the same waiting tactics to beat Ladfromhighworth and subsequent dual scorers Waldo Pepper and Tamatown, again in easy fashion.

The gelding’s switch to regulation fences initially proved a profitable one when he scored easily in a hot maiden hunter chase at Leicester at the end of February, and then followed up with a resounding odds-on success at Exeter on soft ground three weeks later.  His final two outings proved to be disappointing with an odds-on defeat over 2 ½ miles at Exeter in part due to what would appear to be an ill-judged ride; whilst he still had four lengths to find when coming down at the penultimate fence behind the useful Vic Venturi on heavy ground at Uttoxeter.

Robin Will looks like the sort of horse who could take advantage of a handicap mark of just 119 over fences and 110 over hurdles (he’s already placed off 116 and 118 in the latter sphere).  Three miles would appear to be his trip and he seems very versatile in terms of ground conditions and could make his seasonal reappearance as early as this Friday where he holds an entry in the amateur riders handicap chase at Cheltenham.

STOP PRESS: Runs today in the 5.00 Cheltenham

Urban Hymn (Robin Des Champs X Betty Brune)

Richard Barber trained this gelding for the Calder’s last season but the son of Robin Des Champs has been switched to Northern trainer Malcolm Jefferson prior to commencing his rules career.  The five year old had something of an eventful pointing career, with two failures to complete preceding a success at the South’s premier track at Larkhill.

The first of three runs within four weekends came when sent off a 2/5 favourite for a six runner maiden event at Charlton Horethorne in March.  Urban Hymn fell at the thirteenth of eighteen fences on that occasion and it was far too early to tell how he’d have fared had he stood up. However, the winner won on his next three outings so it’s fair to say it would have been interesting had he been upright towards the finish.

Urban Hymn unseated on his next outing in a seven runner maiden on soft ground at Ston Easton when again sent off as favourite though he did come good on his final outing in points at Larkhill at the end of March.  Different tactics were adopted on different ground (good, good to firm in places) to his previous two outings and he made all under Will Biddick.

Urban Hymn had been left clear by the fall of the promising Virtuoso Rouge who won next time out and was subsequently sold for £90,000 in May.  The second and third have both also scored since and the only one to complete who hasn’t tasted victory was the tailed off Setters Gift.  Urban Hymn seems to handle all ground but may be best on a sound surface and is almost certainly going to make a decent chaser in years to come. Until then however he should be able to more than pay his way in novice hurdles this winter and spring.

The Doorman (King’s Theatre X Amber Light)

This chap remains a maiden after just the one point start at Lemonfield back in March.  Punters shouldn’t be put off by this defeat so early on in his career as the JP McManus-owned gelding tracked the leaders in a twelve horse field and travelled well into the race prior to staying on well late to be beaten half a length by the subsequent Listowel maiden hurdle winner, Minella Foru, when partnered by JT McNamara.

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The form of this race looks strong with a ten length gap back to the third who ran well in a maiden earlier this month at Castletown-Geoghegan whilst the fourth placed dead-heater Askamore Darsi has since joined the powerful Donald McCain stable.  The other fourth placed dead heater On Blueberry Hid subsequently sold for £250,000 at the Brightwells sale at Cheltenham in May after winning in a valuable sales bumper for trainer Timmy Hyde.

Although he’s still eligible for maiden points it wouldn’t surprise me to see this King’s Theatre four year old go straight under rules with an Autumn bumper likely to prove well within his capabilities prior to embarking on a profitable hurdling career.

Theatre Queen (King’s Theatre X Dust Gale)

Mark Wall trained this mare to an unbeaten debut season in points that started out when she justified strong support in the betting ring to break her maiden at the Barbury Castle meeting in February.  The six year old daughter of King’s Theatre led from five out and despite not jumping fluently she was soon clear and saw off subsequent winners Mrs Fir and Stapleton amongst others.

She then headed to Wall’s “home” meeting at Paxford where she made virtually all to see off subsequent scorer Hall Kelly by an easy twelve lengths with Wall again in the saddle for a Hunt Members event.  A four runner Restricted (winners) race was next on the agenda for the mare on the prestigious Lady Dudley Cup card at Chaddesley Corbett in April, and she duly made all once more to take the event by fifteen lengths from the subsequent winner Don’t Hang About.

An audacious trip to Ireland was planned next by trainer/jockey Mark Wall for a mares winners event at the Tattersalls International Point-To-Point meeting held at the County Meath track in May but that mission was aborted on arrival due to the going.  The six year old is likely to join Jennifer Mason for a rules campaign and she looks sure to prove hard to beat in mares events this autumn and winter.

Midnight Thunder (Beneficial X Peppardstown)

This raw recruit has joined the Colin Tizzard stable for the new season following an impressive debut in the pointing field in Ireland.  The son of Beneficial was formerly trained by rules trainer Andy Slattery and scored in impressive fashion in a four year old maiden held at the trainer’s local track, Horse And Jockey, in March.

Roger Quinlan took the ride and the chestnut gelding quickened clear of another highly regarded pointer in the shape of Champagne Splash (since purchased expensively by Willie Mullins) with Voyage A New York, who was pulled up in behind, scoring since.  This race has been won by a number of useful performers in the past, most notably Invictus, For Non Stop, and Grand National runner-up Seabass; and Midnight Thunder looks likely to make up into another graded performer to have scored at Horse and Jockey.

Added to this Colin Tizzard has done well with his Irish point scorers in the past and this full-brother to Gordon Elliott’s useful hurdler Mala Beach can make his mark throughout the winter.

Now Ben (Beneficial X Bannow Beach)

The form of this son of Beneficial’s maiden success at Lismore in March is working out very well indeed.  The now Nicky Henderson-trained gelding raced in mid-division for the slower of two divisions of the five year old geldings maiden at the West Waterford Foxhounds meeting prior to staying on to lead with two to jump, and being a couple of lengths up on Massinis Adventure when that one came down at the last.

Massini’s Adventure has scored since as have the second (Amergin), third (Rocky Island) and fifth (Blakemount).  The owners – the Orr’s – have already experienced big race success with Triolo D’Alene in the Topham Trophy at Aintree’s Grand National meeting and Now Ben looks likely to take high rank in staying novice hurdles this coming season.

Marlbrook (Beneficial X Drinadaly)

Unlike many of these, Marlbrook has already been seen under rules since scoring in his point.  The five year old gelding saw off Gowran Park bumper scorer Rockdown by four lengths in the process of taking a maiden event at Nenagh at the end of January.  There was a distance back to the third placed I Need Gold (a winner next time out) and this gelding is another top prospect for the coming rules season.

The gelding was purchased by JP McManus after that success and made his debut under rules at Gowran Park in March when racing handy prior to going on mid-race to score by seventeen lengths from All Day Long.  That probably wasn’t the strongest maiden hurdle we saw last season with only the two Tony Martin runners (Quick Jack and Lancing) scoring subsequently of those who completed the course.

It was similar conditions and at the same track that saw Welsh National scorer Monbeg Dude take his maiden point and it will be interesting to see whether connections stick to hurdling or send their charge over fences this season.

Mendip Express (King’s Theatre X Mulberry)

This seven year old gelding has had the one start under rules thus far and that came back in October 2011 at Wincanton where he took a heavy fall when held in third in a 2m 6f novice hurdle on good ground.  It would be wrong to take that sole performance as an indicator of his ability as he’s now won seven of his nine starts between the flags including the highly prestigious Coronation Gold Cup at Larkhill in March.

The bay has clearly been held in some regard since he was a youngster given he was sent off an odds-on favourite to beat the very useful pair of Harry The Viking and Marshal Zhukov in a maiden event at Larkhill in January 2011.  Ultimately, he was too weak to do himself justice and he folded into third behind that pair but he’s won each of his completed starts since with the sole defeat amongst them coming when unseating his rider at Cotley on his return to pointing after the Wincanton fall in February 2012.

The most recent of those successes came on ground which was generally good to soft at Woodford in April where he beat On Borrowed Wings and former Foxhunter’s fifth Dante’s Storm.  I expect that should connections choose to go under rules with this fellow he will be campaigned in staying chases from an early stage and he could prove an interesting recruit to chasing.

Port Melon (Presenting X Omyn Supreme)

Only the previously mentioned Mendip Express recorded a faster time than this fellow did when taking his Restricted (winner of one race) at Woodford back in April to maintain his unbeaten record between the flags.  The son of Presenting was an expensive purchase as a three year old at Tattersalls Ireland selling to Aiden Murphy for 140,000 Euros and connections will be hoping he can start to repay his purchase price under rules this season.

The runner-up at Woodford was Skating Home who won his next two outings, firstly in this grade before following up in an Intermediate later in the season though in truth he was no match for Graham Roach’s five year old.  Port Melon clearly doesn’t want for speed given that he’d broken his maiden just under four weeks earlier by taking a 2 ½ mile maiden event at Trebudannon (the same race that the useful looking Urubu D’Irlande took in 2012), and it will be interesting to see which route connections take with him.  Given the way he travels he is likely to prove hard to beat in a bumper prior to slotting in over hurdles this season.

Sybarite (Dark Moondancer X Haida III)

Sybarite will be no stranger to many readers given his successes as a youngster for Nigel Twiston-Davies, and the gelding has reportedly re-joined his old trainer following a successful unbeaten run in points last season.  The run started when he took the feature Men’s Open from a field that included the likes of Roulez Cool, Coombe Hill, Dante’s Storm and Offshore Account at Larkhill in January, a run which had many pointing judges viewing him as one of the UK’s dark horses for the Foxhunters in March.

A poorish effort in winning at Horseheath the following month when he scraped home by less than a length from Pristine Condition saw connections shelve any plans to race the son of Dark Moondancer at the Festival, and as such it was left to him to justify odds-on favouritism with wide margin successes at Bangor-On-Dee and Paxford in March and April prior to one final run in the season’s final major race, the Lady Dudley Cup held at Chaddesley Corbett near Birmingham.

With main market rival Divine Intavention running out at the thirteenth, Sybarite saw off the dual Hunter Chase scorer What A Laugh by three lengths with a further four lengths back to course winner Over The Phone in a seven horse field.  This race came over 3m 2f and he should have gained a lot of confidence from his spell between the flags.

The seven year old hasn’t raced over three miles under rules since finishing tenth of eighteen, beaten twenty-nine lengths, by Gold Cup winner Bobs Worth in the Albert Bartlett of 2011 and, following an unsuccessful novice chase campaign in 2011/12, his chase rating is just 120.  I can see him running up a sequence of successes from that mark and given he appears to stay well, races like the regional Nationals could be under consideration come the Spring.

Martin Pennington


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