Eye Catchers, by Andrew Watson
Week Ending 24th November, 2013
There were a few top class performances last weekend at Ascot, Haydock and Navan with several top horses running some well and others, notably Bobs Worth, were disappointing.
Cue Card was very impressive when winning the Betfair Chase and looks to have a very good chance of following up in the King George on Boxing Day. I don’t think his stamina will last out in the Gold Cup should he take his chance there, as the extra furlong and the uphill finish will count against him. Luckily Cleeve subscribers were advised to back him to win the Betfair Chase and to take the 8/1 for the King George ante post.
Friday 22nd November 2013 – 14.05 Ascot – (Class 2) (4yo+) 2m1f Soft
Tradewinds ran a race which showed definite promise under conditions which would have been dead against him, and he looks a readymade winner of an ordinary novice hurdle next time out, and he should be backed accordingly.
Making his debut over hurdles against the useful Irvine from the Paul Nicholls stable who had already won over hurdles, Tradewinds was strong in the market… however the pedestrian early pace caused him to be much to keen and meant his early jumping was decidedly novicey. He didn’t settle for over a mile and although his jumping improved as the race got quicker he missed the 3rd last and dropped off the pace as the leaders quickened round the home turn. With his flat breeding and speed, the race played right into Irvine’s hands, but Tradewinds ran on up the straight well to take 3rd.
Tradewinds will improve markedly with this experience under his belt and when race conditions are more in his favour. He needs a stronger with a stronger pace (from a bigger field), and a step up in trip on softer ground would also play to his strengths
Friday 22nd November 2013 – 1.20 Haydock Wingate Signs & Graphics Graduation Chase
(Class 2) (4yo+) 2m1f Soft
Fago was at the forefront of last year’s Arkle betting after running out an impressive winner of a decent looking novice chase at Newbury on his UK debut. However the wheels seemed to come off as he fell next time out in desperate ground and made mistakes in all of his subsequent races
He made his seasonal debut in the grade one Haldon Gold Cup finishing 40 lengths behind Somersby where he jumped well and was given an easy race. This confidence builder certainly worked as he looked back to his best next time out at Haydock where he raced with zest jumping well and staying on strongly to win this a bit more comfortably than the official distance of three lengths. If Fago can keep his concentration together he will be hard one to beat in races up to about 2 miles four furlongs. He has a great cruising speed between fences and as long as he manages to jump fluently he will continue to win races.
My one slight reservation would be if he reappeared in a big field as he clearly likes to be able to dominate and have a good view of his fences. Back Fago on his next three runs below 2 miles 4 furlongs.
Sunday 24th November – 1.25 Navan “Monksfield” Novice Hurdle (Grade 2)
(4yo+) 2m4f Good to Yielding
Apache Stronghold Won
For me this was definitely the most impressive performance of the weekend and I expect Apache Stronghold to figure prominently in one of the staying Apache Stronghold won a decent bumper on his debut before going on to finish 3rd behind The Liquidator in the Championship Bumper at Punchestown last April beaten only 3 lengths.
He looked in need of the run when winning his maiden hurdle before lining up here in the grade 2 Monksfield Novice Hurdle which featured 8 last time out winners and on paper looked possibly the best contested novices of the season so far.
Azorian from the Gigginstown team was made favourite and I know he is rated as one of their bet novice hopes, also JP and Aiden O’Brien helicoptered in 20 minutes before the race to see how their unbeaten Carrignog fared on his first time over 2 ½ miles. Azorian made it a decent pace but Apache Stronghold always travelled well and despite being decidedly novice at the majority of his hurdles looked the best horse in the race from a long way out. Given a typical Paul Carberry ride he was switched off until turning into the long home straight where he cruised up to the leader 2 out. He fluffed the last and lost momentum allowing Azorian to get his head back in front, but Carberry just gathered him and he strolled away to win in a canter by 3 lengths with another 7 back to Carrignog
Noel Meade is thinking of returning to Navan in the next couple of weeks for the Navan Novice Hurdle and says there is no way he will step down in trip so the Neptune could be the target. Whatever he does over hurdles would be a bonus as this big scopey stayer looks made for fences and could end up being at the very top level for several seasons to come.
He is the best novice hurdler I have seen this season and will be very hard to beat. Follow for the rest of the season, and worth a small interest at 20/1 for the Neptune.