Pedro Powers Home for Houlihan
Written by George Gorman, Monday 10th December 2018
Our new conditional Niall Houlihan's stock continued to rise over the weekend as he steered San Pedro De Senam to success at Huntingdon on Sunday. He showed great tactical awareness to secure the 'box seat', tracking the leader's around the inside rail, before spotting and taking advantage of a slight gap down his older brother Sean's inner coming to two out. From there San Pedro De Senam proved to be a more than willing partner, keeping on well in front to run out an unthreatened winner. This was the horse's first victory in nearly a year following an ill fated novice chasing campaign last year. However the son of Saints Des Saints bounced right back to form here for owners Jane George and Helen Shelton and could prove to be well handicapped despite receiving the assistance of Niall's ten pound claim yesterday. He was very competitive off higher marks over fences last year and it will be interesting to see if he can make the discrepancy between his two marks count this winter. Another who proved to be well ahead of his mark last week was Kloud Gate, who managed to gain his just deserts for a great but winless flat campaign over the summer by galloping to a nine length success at Leicester on Thursday. Held up by Jamie Moore, he travelled smoothly into contention from three out before readily galloping away from his pursuers coming down to the last. This continued a great couple of weeks for Knocknanuss's owners Hail, Sargent and Evans and hopefully is a sign that this horse can also go on to run up a sequence. I write a lot about the horses and their journeys on here but it would be remiss of me to not mention a first, nearly winning, ride from one of our team at home. Katy Brooks has been with us for a good few years now, progressing from yard work with occasional riding out all the way to being a regular work rider and important member of our team. She's always wanted to ride in races and has run into many obstacles in pursuit of that but on Wednesday she finally achieved that dream by partnering Argyle in the amateur rider's handicap flat race at Lingfield. Not content with this she managed to navigate her way around a lot of trouble in running and overcome a wide draw to just be denied by a neck, by far the best performance of this horses flat career. This really is a lesson to anyone that if you work hard enough you can achieve your goals and we can't wait to see Katy on the track again soon.
Monday sees stable stalwart Clayton make his seasonal appearance at Lingfield in the 0-125 Handicap Hurdle. Having not run since January it's reasonable to expect he will come on for this run but this super consistent horse is one you can never discount lightly. His twelve starts over hurdles have yielded two wins and five seconds, two of those seconds coming on seasonal reappearances. Whatever the result it's great to welcome horses like this back year after year and hopefully he can run well under what is still a workable mark. On Tuesday at Fontwell Tazka will look to follow up her course and distance win twenty three days ago in another juvenile hurdle. She will have to carry a seven pound penalty for that success, which will negate her fillies allowance but, as the only winner in the field, that seems a fair trade-off. She had to battle hard to beat Yamuna River last time but hopefully she will have improved from that experience and can claim victory again in a race that some of the 'bigger' trainers seem to have left alone. Another who could attempt to overcome a penalty this week is Thursday's winner Kloud Gate, who holds an entry in the 0-115 Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham on Friday. He just squeaks into the race carrying twelve stone and, should he come out of last week's race well, it may prove to be too good an opportunity to pass up. He will undoubtedly come across more improving horses there than he did at Leicester but he may not get another chance in this handicap bracket.
Thoughts on the weekend's runners available from Friday night.
Written by George Gorman, Saturday 8th December 2018
It might be a day where The racing public's attention is split between the Beecher Chase meeting at Aintree and the Tingle Creek meeting at Sandown Park but from a Cisswood perspective it is very much all roads lead to Esher. Our day starts with two very different hurdling debutantes in the National Hunt Novice Hurdle. Chain Smoker has run in five Irish Point-to-Points for Tom Keating (I'm reliably informed he's no relation to Ronan) where he managed to achieve a third and two fourths in the spring. This will very much be a getting-to-know-you mission and we can only hope for a good, clean round of jumping. It's a similar story with our other runner Gleno although his background is slightly differnet having been raced exclusively in bumpers before joining us. His runs have been extremely spaced out, a 4th at Punchestown two years ago and a win in March at Ayr bookending a tame effort in Perth in 2017, but his form seems to have some substance so we will watch with interest.
Our best chance of the day may come in the Grade One Henry VIII Novices chase, where Diakali puts his credentials on the line in a bid to beat Timeform's highest rated Novice Chaser of the season in Lalor. The softening ground will make our grey's hell for leather running style much more difficult but it might be fair to say Lalor is traditionally a better horse in the spring, although an emphatic win first time out might suggest he's more ready than usual this year. However we have never made a habit of avoiding horses and the racing public are guaranteed a treat as our son of the recently deceased Sindaar plays the mouse to Lalor's cat.
Thounder makes his seasonal reappearance in the listed handicap hurdle for Tony Head, having had his season cut short through injury last year. Before that he had won two Juvenile Hurdles back to back before being beaten at Fontwell. This is a horse who left an impression on me with his slick, speedy jumping style, which will be well suited to a big handicap such as this. However he could run a little keen last year so we have to hope he's mellowed a little since his last birthday. Also lining up in this race is course and distance winner Eragon De Chanay, back under conditional Niall Houlihan. He's up eight pound for his success two starts ago under that pilot, so you could say the jockey's claim is counteracted by the fact that he had the same claim when winning here last. Apple's Shakira will be hard to beat for either horse but there is potential that Eragon De Chanay will improve again for his last run and the ground will certainly be to his liking.
Knocknanuss Advertises Cheltenham Credentials
Written by George Gorman, Tuesday 4th December 2018
Friday saw the yard send out another nice winner on a big stage as Knocknanuss demolished a smart field at Newbury. Having taken the field along at a particularly fast pace, the son of Beneficial put in some breath-taking leaps and banished all memories of his chasing debut fall at Plumpton. From four fences from home his advantage began to steadily increase, allowing him to run out a relatively un-extended seventeen length winner. The nature of this win really opens up opportunities for him, in both handicap and non-handicap company, however this horse has been fragile in the past so we’ll take it day by day and allow his owners Hail, Evans and Sargent to bask in this victory for a while longer before making a plan. Last Monday saw another exciting performance as Dell Oro made the start to his chasing career. Having been tipped up by Timeform as a horse to follow once going chasing, there may have
been a few more eyes on him than many of our runners and he did not disappoint. He started second favourite as he carried five pounds more than a rival rated eight pounds his superior. This rival had also been beaten only narrowly in two hot novice chases this season so on paper Dell Oro was very much racing for second. However, from the word go he conclusively outjumped his rival and maybe even slightly led him down to two out. In the end though, class began to tell as Chesterfield slowly got the better of him. Despite this I think we could go into a rematch with a bit of confidence, even off the same terms again. Our strapping son of Walk In The Park will come on a lot for that run, as is the case with most big chasing types, it’s a long season ahead and this horse looks destined for the winners enclosure. Another novice chaser who impressed this week was Catherine Reed’s Hint Of Grey the next day at Lingfield. She made her second chasing start in a mare’s handicap chase and, similarly to her chasing debut, her attacking jumping style really took the eye. What was more evident this time though was an ability to shorten up and tackle her fences more sensibly when necessary. She ran very keenly early once again and this may have been a factor as to why she faded into a slightly distant second. If you take into consideration that she’s spent the summer running on the flat and working with flat horses, there’s hope that she will learn to settle better and pick up a race in her next few starts.
In the week ahead we have Kloud Gate entered in several races in what will be his first run of the jumps season and his handicap debut. He placed once from four novice hurdle starts last season but has been in great form on the flat this summer, consistently hitting marks in the low nineties. If he can transfer this run of form back to hurdling, a starting mark of 108 seems more than fair for such a highly rated flat horse. We certainly hope that’s the case for his owners Hail, Sargent and Evans who enjoyed such a great success with Knocknanuss on Friday. On Friday Il Re Di Nessuno makes his hurdling debut at Sandown. The juvenile son of Sindaar was a winner of two races as well as achieving a listed placing back in Italy. Quite what this form will stack up to in England remains to be seen and it will certainly face a tough examination here. A clean round of jumping and a positive experience is the main priority here but any indication to his level of ability will have to be taken with a pinch of salt on his first outing over hurdles. We also have Early Du Lemo making his second chasing start for us at Sandown the same afternoon. His chasing debut was pretty low key at Chepstow but he’s always been a horse we’ve treated with kid gloves, racing only twice in each of his first two seasons with us. We are hoping now that our patience will be rewarded and he can improve on his seasonal and chasing debut. This looks to be a very competitive event and he does have a ballot mark so we just have to hope for the best that he will get a run.
My views are available on the weekend's runners from Friday night
All Roads Lead to Cheltenham for Alco
Written by George Gorman, Monday 26th November 2018
Finally my schedule has relented enough to write about Baron Alco's big day. I wrote here in my preview of the race that no one at Cisswood viewed him as a second string to Benatar before his withdrawal and the son of deceased super sire Dom Alco went to Cheltenham our sole runner and proved us all right. You would have been mistaken for not realising this scrappy little chestnut was competing off a career high mark, having been raised four pounds for his second to Charbel after 577 days off the track. Nonetheless he jumped from fence to fence to make nearly every yard of the running in one of the most competitive handicap chases of the year. The patchy jumping in behind him is a testament to just how early he had all of his pursuers in trouble and the fact that he managed to find even more with Frodon breathing down his neck down the home straight was nothing short of heroic. Baron Alco and Jamie really were made for each other and it's fantastic to see the two of them enjoy a day in the spotlight like that. His next assignment will more than likely be a tilt at the Capian Caviar Handicap Chase back at Cheltenham for the December meeting. It will mean a drop in trip to two and a half miles but the ground is likely to be much softer by then than it was ten days ago. Having Fontwell and then Plumpton in the two days following meant that the great form continued for a few days here at Cisswood as Tazka made a great impression when fighting hard to win a juvenile hurdle at Fontwell. She will have learned a lot from that experience and we will gain a much clearer idea of how far she can go next time out. Finally Jamie's run of winners ended at Plumpton on Monday, where Cheque En Blanc, as mentioned in this blog, got up to win on his second attempt at chasing. He looked crowded out of it for much of the race and made some uncharacteristic errors before being switched wide by Jamie and jumping his way into contention down the back. He was then nudged along to get on terms with the leaders before switching to the inside rail and out battling his final rival to take home the money. It's early day's for this horses chasing career yet and we hope he has a bit more room to manoeuvre off his mark if he can cut out the errors next time and chasing can significantly improve him. Finally the week ended with Benatar's return to Saturday racing in the Christy's 1965 Chase at Ascot. It was a nice reintroduction for him given how long ago his Newton Abbott run was and it was good to see him more settled and jumping well. He seemed to get caught for a bit of toe when trying to mount a challenge and it's fair to say this huge horse will come on for the run, he has an entry in the King George but that's something that will require a lot of discussion. It may be interesting to note however that Charbel, Baron Alco's Chepstow conqueror, ran a great race to nearly run down the 168 rated Politologue late, hopefully this bodes well for the rest of Baron Alco's season.
As for this week, we very much look forward to Dell Oro's return to action in the Beginner's Chase at Kempton on Monday. He is doubtless a high class horse as he proved by winning a hot Novice Hurdle at Ascot this time last year before going on to place in a Class Two at Cheltenham in April. The ground may come up a little firm for him but it's a great track to take a novice chaser and we hope he'll have a good experience and this big, burly horse will strip fitter for the outing. Et Moi Alors heads to Lingfield on Tuesday and is looking to bounce back from a slightly disappointing start to the season two weeks ago at the same track. He's another example of a big, chasing type who is quite hard to get all the way fit at home and hopefully that is the reason for his sub par performance last time, he still seems to show a lot of ability at home and we're hopeful he can return to that form this time. Knocknanuss holds another entry at Newbury on Friday where he can try to follow up his wide margin novice chase win at Fakenham, rain permitting. His fall at Plumpton when making his first start over fences seemed to have been completely forgotten that day as his jumping was flawless. The fences at Newbury represent a much tougher examination of his jumping and it's unlikely that he will find it as easy to bully a field of the a field of quality he will encounter on Friday
Written by George Gorman, Saturday 24th November 2018
A week later than anticipated it is finally time for Benatar to return to Saturday racing. The physically imposing son of Benefical had a low key start to the season when finishing down the field at Newton Abbot in October. However this was not altogether surprising on such a tight track, but heavy ground, a small field and attractive prize money made it a logical place to start his season. Now back on a more favourable, galloping track we hope he will be a different prospect altogether. Having a run will have done a big horse such as himself a lot of good and a mark just one pound higher than when beating Finnians Oscar at this same track seems reasonable. His problem in the past has been that he's very difficult to settle but with horses of this standard and good ground it's reasonable to hope they will go a decent gallop which should help our cause no end. Politologue will go off clear favourite as the Grade One winner is well clear of the rest on ratings, whilst Charbel's connections will have been delighted to see Baron Alco win last weekend having watched their charge defeat him at Chepstow first time out. All in all this is a race deep in talent but we hope to see Ashley Head's star put on a good show and put himself in a position to go on and have a really big season from here. Good luck to Mr Head and Benatar's groom Phoebe and all come home safe.
How Do We Top That Then?
Written by George Gorman, Sunday 18th November 2018
For anyone who has read this blog regularly, this week's will see a temporary change in format. Normally I would first go through our best results from the week just gone and then move on to what I think our most interesting runners might be for the week ahead. However I would normally write this Monday lunchtime and at that time this week I will actually be racing myself! Given the weekend we had I think the reflections part of the blog deserves more time than I have so instead I'll be writing about the runners for the week ahead and publishing the rest on Monday evening, hopefully together with some good results from Plumpton.
On paper our best chance of the day at the East Sussex track is Larry, who currently heads the market for an incredibly competitive Novice Handicap Chase, where eight pounds separate the whole field on ratings and just three points in the betting. He made a highly pleasing chasing debut at Ascot last month, where he seemed to take to the obstacles well. He comes up against some big named trainers here but will be receiving weight all round and surely has a chance to serve it up to his rivals. Later in the afternoon Cheque En Blanc occupies a much lower place in the betting and will also be making his second chasing start. He may have been beaten a long way on his chasing bow at Fontwell but he was running at well below his ideal trip that day. All his best form for us has been over three miles or further and he reverts to a staying trip this time, running in a three and a half mile handicap. He is off a higher mark than he has won off before but he goes there with every chance if the bigger obstacles can squeeze a bit of improvement our of this solid looking son of Bernebeau. Moving ahead to Wednesday, Knocknanuss will look to follow up his wide margin novice chase win at Fakenham in a rather tougher race at Warwick. His jumping was fantastic that day and showed no side of any ill effects from his fall at Plumpton when making his first start over fences. It will be much harder to bully a field of the likely size and quality he will encounter on Wednesday but thats what many said of Baron Alco before Saturday afternoon! The final horse I's like to mention out of our midweek runners is Sandown winner Eragon Du Chanay who is engaged on Thursday at Wincanton. This will be an interesting watch as he received a very clever ride at Sandown, which poses the question of how many lengths his jockey stole and how many lengths has this horse improved. If the latter outweighs the former and things go his way on the day, this horse could well back up his success and force us to look at some big targets with him.
Keep your eyes peeled for my round up on Baron Alco, Tazka and more, up Monday evening!
BetVictor Meeting: Saturday's Runners
Written by George Gorman, Saturday 17th November 2018
BetVictor Gold Cup day is upon us and unfortunately we have had to take a few of our horses out, luckily enough our remaining runner has a big chance in the feature race of the day. It’s always fantastic to be a part of the big weekend meetings but to have one with a chance in the main race is really what we’re all in this game for. Baron Alco was slightly the longer of our two in the betting before Benatar's withdrawal but I don't think any of us considered him our second string by any means. His reappearance at Chepstow came off the back of over a year and a half off the track, so understandably our expectations were moderate. What followed however was undoubtedly his best performance to date. Despite racing freely and jumping out to his right for much of the race, he kept on well to push the very talented Charbel all the way to the line. The worry for many would be that he may now ‘bounce’ after having so long off the track, but as that run was a month ago I believe we’re out of the window for that to occur. A more pressing worry would be the difficulty of winning fast run races like this from a prominent position. It will no doubt make life much harder for him but you can never say never with this tough little horse. All that remains is to wish his owner John Stone the best of luck and as ever, come home safe Barry
BetVictor Meeting: Friday's Runners
It looks to be a busy weekend for us at Cheltenham with a selection of six nice horses making the trip to Pretsbury Park. Looking to break his maiden in the Novices Handicap Hurdle is the super consistent maiden Kapdad. Having not finished out of the frame in his first five starts, it would be great to see this horse finally get his head in front, especially on a stage like this. However many will think he has questions to answer after getting touched off by a since-beaten rival in a three runner race at Plumpton on his first start of the season. I would argue that both horses were joint favourite on the day and this scrappy little chestnut pushed his rival all the way to the line, if stripping fitter for that run he could just squeak a place again today on a much larger stage. Later on Friday afternoon Graasten returns to Cheltenham to try and recreate his fantastic run at the track a few weeks ago. He seems to have taken to chasing fantastically putting in a great round of jumping that day bar for one potentially costly stumble two from home. Again he will be competing against much higher rated rivals but this time he has either as much or more chasing experience than many of his competition, he will need to put it to good use to win this competitive Novice Chase.
Views on Saturday's runners available this evening