The most impressive performance of the weekend between the flags came from the four year old Alpha Des Obeaux who
quickened clear of five rivals to take a four year old event at the first time of asking at Tinahely. The French-bred gelding by the Sadler’s Wells stallion Saddler Maker who has had just a handful of runners thus far in France came readily clear from after the penultimate fence to score by twenty lengths in the hands of Jamie Codd. Gordon Elliott saddled the gelding for the Gigginstown House Stud and though only two finished he couldn’t have done this any easier and it will be interesting to see how he fares should he attempt to follow up in a bumper.
JP McManus appears to have another useful recruit on his hands in the shape of the Beneficial four year old Lift The Latch who got off the mark at the opening attempt at Lemonfield last weekend. The Lemonfield meeting saw the maiden victory of Last Instalment a few years ago and while this particular horse is unlikely to be as good as Philip Fenton’s charge he certainly looks likely to have a big future under rules given he fought back strongly when headed to see off fellow newcomer Present Man under Derek O’Connor.
Cliff Lane is the sole horse of interest at Carlisle on Thursday with the five year old set to make his debut under rules for Lucinda Russell in the concluding bumper. Kinsale isn’t known for producing quality animals but the son of Scorpion couldn’t have been any more impressive when winning a four year old event at the track in November by a distance on yielding to soft ground. Only two finished on that occasion which is probably testament to how hard the field went early on as indeed is the time of the thirteen runner event which was eleven seconds faster than the average that day and while likely to appreciate a greater test of stamina in time he can make his presence felt in this bumper.
The first of the two Hunter Chase’s this coming Friday at Leicester looks likely to be a cracker with Benedictus, Little Legend, What A Laugh and Current Exchange all engaged here. Preference here would be for Little Legend who has been impressive in all three success in this grade thus far. More is required in this particular contest than when successful at Warwick last month but the trip wouldn’t have been entirely in his favour on that occasion and he could bid to make all in this. Of the other leading contenders it was disappointing to see What A Laugh finish so far back on the heavy ground at Haydock last month following a promising pointing run in Devon earlier in the season and he has work to do to turn around form with Current Exchange who finished runner-up in the Haydock event.
The Thrusters Hunter Chase is the first of the season over the minimum two mile trip and features some interesting pointers here. Blackstown Flyer has yet to get his act together but was an expensive purchase a couple of years ago and hasn’t always convinced with his stamina. Gerald Bailey trains the gelding and he is a lively outsider. Of the more fancied runners I’m So Lucky was overhauled late on by the highly progressive Glint Of Steel in a competitive Club Members event at Higham at the end of January and with the pair finishing some way clear of the remainder that marked a solid return to action on his first run since finishing well beaten over hurdles at the Grand National meeting of 2012 with the drop in trip here likely to suit Tom Ellis’ mount.
A number of ex-pointers could line up in the opening staying novice hurdle at Ayr this coming Saturday and preference in this is for the Stuart Crawford-trained eight year old Man With Van who comes into this having won his last two outings over hurdles including at Fairyhouse five weeks ago. The son of Milan took his maiden point at Taylorstown in May 2013 prior to falling in a competitive winners event won by James at Maralin in November. A relative late comer to all forms of racing he belied his inexperience when an eye-catching fifth at Navan a month later prior to the first of his two victories thus far at Down Royal over Christmas. This step up in trip looks sure to suit this gelding who saw off Seriatim last time out despite being hampered by a faller at a crucial stage.
The Tetratema Cup at Gowran Park on Saturday is the latest Hunter Chase to take place in Ireland and it could see the return to chasing of the promising Davy From Milan. Eoin Doyle’s charge has won his last three starts in points including when defeating Bee Fallon and five others in an Open event at Bennetsbridge a fortnight ago. His rivals here could include Grade 1 winning chaser Quel Esprit, dual Hunter Chase winner Carsonstown Boy and the promising youngster James who was fourth to Warne on his latest appearance at Fairyhouse last month.
The concluding bumper at the same venue is restricted to pointers and sees two exciting prospects owned by the Gigginstown House Stud engaged in the race. The first of these is the Willie Mullins-trained Tell Us More who scored in a Tattersalls Farm four year old event in December despite being badly hampered by a loose horse at the penultimate fence, that success came in a decent time and he showed enough speed to suggest that a bumper would be within his capabilities. Altiepix is the only four year old engaged in the race and it will be interesting to see how he fares given his sole success thus far came in a small field event at Askeaton last month. The son of Fragrant Mix couldn’t have been any more impressive however and Pat Doyle’s charge would be of interest here if standing his ground at the declaration stage.
Boondooma could make his handicap debut at Sandown in the EBF Final this coming Saturday and Richard Newland’s charge who disappointed on his UK debut at Wincanton in February gets in off a light weight in this particular contest. The seven year old son of Westerner scored at the fifth attempt in bumpers at Limerick in December having taken on the likes of Defy Logic, Briar Hill and Wounded Warrior prior to that and he was unlucky not to win on his final start in Ireland when staying on strongly over the minimum trip at Cork in January. This is a valuable prize and Boondooma looks attractively weighted with Sam Twiston-Davies provisionally booked for the ride.
Warwick stages two Hunter Chases this coming Sunday including the prestigious Crudwell Cup which could feature last year’s runner-up Freddies Return. The Phil York-trained veteran finished runner-up to Gentle George on that occasion and the multiple Kent National winner who is also engaged in two Open points at Godstone this weekend could attempt to go one better here. He is likely to face stiff competition from Leicester winner Gunmoney while Golan Way will be looking to step up on his debut in this sphere in which he unseated his rider at Musselburgh.
Warwick’s other Hunter Chase is run over two and a half miles and again features the Tim Vaughan-trained Golan Way in addition to twenty two other contenders. It was disappointing to see Penmore Mill finish only fourth at Musselburgh on his return to track racing behind That’s Rhythm but this drop in trip may help Fred Hutsby’s gelding given that two of his wins last season were gained at Fakenham which is generally considered to be a speed track. Of the other contenders Rebel Du Maquis was a useful performer a few years ago but his chances are likely to be greatly affected by trainer Paul Nicholls choice of jockey.
Trainer Andrew Pennock has made a flying start to the pointing season and his Warwickshire could attempt to take the Novices Hunter Chase at Stratford on Monday. The gelding was the winner of a maiden event at Cottenham in December prior to pulling up on his most recent outing in a Restricted event at Higham. He looks likely to be up against it though should the Heidi Brookshaw-trained Ballyjames take up this engagement. The nine year old son of Winged Love was beaten just half a length by Foxhunters contender That’s Rhythm at Bangor last April and made a solid return to racing when runner-up in an Open event when last seen in action last month.