Four Things We Learned: Solo to be triumphant in the Triumph

Solo was incredibly impressive at Kempton.
Solo was incredibly impressive at Kempton.

Joe Tuffin looks at four things we learned from this weekend's action, where we saw a new favourite for the Triumph Hurdle and a Grand National winner hang up his boots...

Solo sets the standard in the Triumph

It was hard to ignore the performance of the Paul Nicholls-trained Solo, who pulverised his opponents in a public schooling session at Kempton on Saturday. Well supported before the off, he took no time in taking a prominent position and when asked to extend his lead, he did so effortlessly. His main market principal and only opponent on form, Fujimoto Flyer, was devoid of an answer as Harry Cobden and Solo began to shrink into the distance, Cobden drawing the whip but returning it to his clutches after a peep over his shoulder revealed the lead he had.

That, for me, makes him the one to beat in the Triumph Hurdle. It has the potential to be a very smart renewal of the Juvenile event, but you can pick holes in the form of the other candidates - albeit pedantically. Goshen appears to possess countless gears - but has somewhat let himself down with a clumsy approach to his hurdles - where as Aspire Tower appeared to have no answers before falling at Leopardstown when last seen. That leaves Allmankind who, on the face of it, looks like the one that can serve it up to Solo after a facile success against some smart sorts when last seen over the Christmas period. But Solo was more eye-catching, the way he raced, jumped and drew clear was unbelievably professional and I’d be shocked if someone can match that come March.

They’re right not to go to Cheltenham with Andy Dufresene

The Cheltenham Festival, as incredible an event as it is, is not the be all and end all of National Hunt racing. It would therefore be foolish to send a horse there that doesn’t seem to have much of a chance, especially if there are ample races at home that present a better chance of success and prize money.

Andy Dufresene is exactly this horse, there is no doubt he has ability but he doesn’t seem to possess that little bit of class that would make him a bona-fide Grade 1 Cheltenham contender. Think Tim Henman in Tennis, or Theo Walcott in football, very good, but not great. His loss at the hands of Jason The Militant, who was given another pearler by the ever-impressive Rachael Blackmore, proves this.

Admittedly he was giving weight away to the whole field but given the hype that surrounded him after he was purchased for £330,000 as a four-year-old, you’d expect better. He clearly just isn’t the horse many anticipated despite still being a talented one, and they’ll probably bear more fruits by steering clear of Prestbury Park.

Keep your betslip to hand if you ever back William Henry

For me, there is nothing better than a horse that was seemingly outpaced and beaten rally home late on to win, and William Henry has built up quite the reputation of doing just that. His win at the weekend came in the most unlikely of circumstances, with Nicky Henderson’s ten-year-old a good 15 lengths off the leader Quel Destin in last place approaching the second from home. Such was the deficit he had to overcome that he was matched at 650/1 in-running, where as both Quel Destin and Thomas Darby went as short as 1.11.

It was a startlingly similar scenario to his Coral Cup win at last year's Cheltenham Festival, where the untrained eye would have completely missed him build up a head of steam on the standside rail to collar the tenacious Wicklow Brave. He hit 300/1 in running that day, showing once again that he has the late charge mastered to a tee. If you back him again, don’t screw your bet slip up until it's over!    

We waved goodbye to Leighton Aspell

There is a strong feeling of a change in the weighing room at the moment, as some of the sports veterans that have graced the game for decades gone by are hanging up the saddle for pastures new. Leighton Aspell is the latest to join that list, with the two-time Grand National winner announcing on Saturday that this weekend would be his last. He has already retired before, in 2007 before returning two-seasons later - a smart move given he recorded back-to-back wins in Jump racing’s richest race during his second stint - but this time, he says, it’s for good.

With Noel Fehily and Ruby Walsh, two legends of the game both on and off the track, stepping down last season, and Andrew Thornton doing the same a year prior, there is an obvious changing of the guard. The likes of Harry Cobden, Jack Kennedy, James Bowen and even more recently Jonjo O’Neill Jr are starting to pick up the big rides, and it’s surely only a matter of time before one of the aforementioned challenges for a Champion Jockey title. If they do, they’ll have to dethrone a man in Richard Johnson who already had a Grade 1 under his belt before any of them were even born... 

The Cheltenham Festival
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