Every man and his dog will have seen how well BRIO CONTI travelled in the Coral Cup at Cheltenham and this flatter track will surely see him to better effect. There had been the odd concern raised before the grey ran at the Festival about his effectiveness there but I thought being much more the finished article he may be able to handle it better.
Well, he did, but not well enough to win. Basically he was going so well he hit the front far too soon and I always feel in those big handicaps if you are in front turning in you are more likely to lose than not. Brio Conti was running on empty after the last but he should still be a relatively fresh horse as that was only his third run of the season. He’s got plenty of weight but I think he has the potential to be a graded novice chaser next season.
At a bigger price Jonjo O’Neill appears to have saved TEDHAM for this and he’s worth having on side too. He ran against some of the smartest novices early in the season such as Al Dancer and Getaway Trump and then won at Wincanton. That form leaves him short in this standard but he seemed to win with a fair bit in hand.
Three who ran with credit in the Supreme take each other on again here with Itchy Feet coming out best over Felix Desjy and Aramon, but I fancy a bit of a turn up here with SOFIA’S ROCK.
Dan Skelton will have been delighted to get his hands on this five-year-old after he showed some really good form on the level for Mark Johnston. He scored on his debut at lowly Worcester in September, after which he went to have a wind op and was given a long time off.
There is every chance he needed the run when beaten on his return from 155 days off but he looked a different proposition when winning at Ludlow recently. Admittedly, it wasn’t much of a contest, but if he gets away on the front end he might be tough to catch.
The Mildmay Novices’ Chase finally sees LOSTINTRANSLATION over three miles and while he has been performing with great credit over two and a half this season, you’d have to say it looks like what he needs.
He just came out on the wrong end of a thrilling trilogy with Defi Du Seuil at Cheltenham and it is fair to say now the Philip Hobbs horse is quite simply quicker. He did very little wrong at Cheltenham, meeting every fence just about perfectly and looked to have done everything right but after the last he had no answer to a speedier rival.
Up in trip on a flatter track, his jumping will be his key asset as he is likely to gain at every fence if he gets into the same rhythm as last time. Also, he ran a blinder at this meeting last year so he clearly likes the track. I think he could be a bit too quick for Topofthegame, who had a hard race at Cheltenham.
It has been a frustrating season for Ruth Jefferson and her stable star WAITING PATIENTLY, but there will be enough cut in the ground for him to run to his best form which might be good enough.
Because of the driest winter on record he has been reduced to just two runs – well one really as he got brought down early in the King George. Many were disappointed he was beaten so far by Cyrname at Ascot but that I’m not sure there’s a horse in training who would have beaten him that day. The fact he beat Fox Norton, Aso and Politologue on effectively his first run for a year suggests to me he was every bit as good as ever.
Some have crabbed his head carriage under pressure and as a result Jefferson has fitted a pair of cheekpieces. A flat track, freshness on his side, ground to suit, he won’t have many excuses this time.
Min needs to bounce back from a poor run at Cheltenham while Politologue surely had a very hard race there.
With 30 runners over the National fences, albeit over a circuit less than the big one, the Topham Chase is always a great spectacle. There are two against the field I fancy, but having hoped the ground is soft enough for Waiting Patiently earlier that means it will probably be too soft for my first fancy, PEREGRINE RUN.
He has been trained for this all year, which is unusual straight away, but Peter Fahy felt he had more chance of getting the good ground he needs here than at Cheltenham. He’s a neat and tidy jumper without being spectacular which I think is what suits best of these fences as you conserve energy, and this trip is perfect for him.
He showed up well over hurdles last time when Barry Geraghty, replacing the retired Roger Loughran, got to know him,. So it’s all about how he handles the ground (and the fences, of course).
Another to watch is ACTIVIAL, who I thought ran a blinder at Cheltenham over a trip that stretches him. As long as that race hasn’t emptied him too much I think he’s capable of getting involved off his mark given his form away from Cheltenham and he’s a safe jumper, too.
My regular reader might remember that I made LISNAGAR OSCAR my best bet of the Cheltenham Festival and he let me down in fifth. I thought the rain-softened ground probably stretched his stamina as he seemed to be travelling perfectly well for two and a half miles only to find nothing up the hill.
However, speaking to Rebecca Curtis this week she feels that Sean Bowen was further out of his ground that needs be and he had to make that ground up when the pace was quickening down the back straight and by the second last he had run his race. She obviously doesn’t hold it against Bowen as he’s still on top and I’ve got to give him another chance purely because of the law of sod.
We don’t really know how good Emitom is, I’m surprised Champ runs here rather than over two and a half on Saturday (I prefer Henderson’s Downtown Getaway to outrun his price, anyway) and Dallas Des Pictons is stepping up markedly in class.
There’s not much form to go on here but I thought it was significant that SANTA ROSSA takes on the boys rather than running against her own sex 24 hours earlier.
Dermot McLoughlin is a canny trainer and has always spoken highly of this mare and she is already a Grade Two winner, much more than the rest of the field can say. What was impressive about her win last time out was that she was keen enough early on yet still had enough in reserve to pull out more at the finish so she can probably be marked up even further still.
It could be a breakthrough win for young jockey Finny Maguire, son of former leading rider, Adrian.