Lostintranslation was an eye-catching winner on reappearance at Carlisle on Sunday.
In her first article of a new weekly series, Cathryn Fry looks back on a key weekend of National Hunt action on both sides of the Irish Sea, and assesses what that might mean in terms of the Cheltenham Festival...
If you’re a fan of astrology, you’d know that Mercury is in retrograde.
However, if your name is Slate House, Black Op, Summerville Boy, Samcro or The Worlds End, that’s not to be believed! No doubt that this five will continue their progression forward as we navigate the twists and turns of the next five months - with wind operations and decent jumping ground seemingly working the oracle in the extreme.
So, what of Samcro, the horse once considered to be the saviour of mankind? His first chasing test under Rules was faultless. His jumping was accurate and he swiftly put to bed his inferior rivals. That’s all he could do, and he did it with ease, with two wind ops and alternative stabling arrangements seeming to have helped his cause. It’s the Grade 1 Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse next for Samcro, and if you can get to that meeting, it’s a must - one of the best day’s racing in the Irish National Hunt calendar.
A day later at Down Royal, last year’s Champion Bumper winner Envoi Allen put in a commanding performance on his first run over timber. It was interesting to hear that they may keep him over two miles; the Grade 1 Royal Bond Novice Hurdle being the next target. There’s plenty of stamina in his pedigree, so the decision about what he ultimately goes for at the Festival in March may come down to the ground.
The weekend’s two big races: the Charlie Hall Chase and the Down Royal Champion Chase, didn’t really tell us anything that we didn’t already know.
By the time the Charlie Hall was run, the day’s rain had turned the recently-flooded Wetherby sodden once more. They set off at a fair old clip and it was no surprise to see two thorough stayers fill the first two places. The winner Ballyoptic loves the conditions, as does the second, Elegant Escape. Neither would have an impact in the major Grade One chases on decent ground - but if the winter continues with the biblical rain, you have to count them in to your calculations.
Meanwhile, last year’s winner Definitly Red was found out by conditions, and you can put a line through this run for him, while the favourite, La Bague Au Roi, was never jumping with her usual zest and was pulled up approaching four from home. Hopefully going back right-handed and better ground will see a return to form for her.
Over at Down Royal, Road to Respect took the feature event for the second year in a row, with last year’s King George winner Clan Des Obeaux four lengths back in the runners up spot.
I don’t buy into the fact that the winner doesn’t act in the spring. Last year he got jarred up on the unseasonably fast ground at Leopardstown when placing in the Christmas Chase, which ruined the rest of the season. His Festival record reads 1, 4, 3, though - not bad for a supposed ‘early season horse’!
I’m hoping he goes to Kempton for the King George rather than Leopardstown this season, but that decision hinges on the ground - a good ground Gold Cup would be right up his street.
Clan Des Obeaux always comes on for the run, and he tanked along before tiring late on. Kempton calls again once more for this gorgeous looking son of Kapgarde - even if Altior takes up the King George challenge, I wouldn’t be betting against this one.
On his first run in open company, Delta Work made a series of errors that put pay to any chance. The field was very compact at times, so he may have lacked for daylight at a few. The jumping can be worked on and he’s in the right place for that.
As I type this, Lostintranslation has just put in an exhibition round of jumping to win the Colin Parker Memorial Chase on reappearance at Carlisle. There’s no doubting his talent and his class, but I see him as more of a Ryanair type than a Gold Cup horse. Yes, he’s won over three miles, but three miles at Aintree is a very different animal to the beast that is three miles and two furlongs at Cheltenham. Time will tell and I could be totally wrong, but I just have a nagging doubt.
126 days to go, so pace yourselves. Next stop: Aintree, Wincanton and Naas.