Damn and blast. With Lingfield called off we lost a lot more than a day at the races – we lose the opportunity to give Mon Michel a prep race, but more significantly we can’t go for the Fred Winter now as we won’t have the required three races for a handicap mark in the bag by Saturday. We’ll almost certainly still go for the Adonis, but it would have been nice to have seen him complete in a race beforehand.
We won’t be the only ones who have had trouble finding races pre Cheltenham – there are any number of horses who have been waiting for better ground before they come out, and there simply hasn’t been any. Some horses which are targetting Cheltenham but need good ground have had to come out and run in the soft simply because they need a run and the clock is ticking – others are still waiting, but time is running out.
One horse who has taken his time to make his NH debut is Lightning Strike, who comes out at Huntingdon tomorrow. Rodger and I tried to buy this horse at the HIT last October but he got very high, selling for £200k. We had our vet check him out and Jim McGrath at Timeform wrote me an analysis of the horse from what they knew. He’s a genuine stayer, having been the only 3yo to run in the Cesarewitch last year. He’s a good type physically and is sound, having run on all surfaces on the flat. He’s been supported for the Triumph so he’s probably working pretty well for Venetia Williams.
I have some doubts though. He had a long season last year – 11 races finishing in October – and he might be in need of a longer break. These real long distance types can be a bit slow when it comes to 2 mile hurdles (they don’t build up the same momentum and speed in hurdle races as the hurdles slow them down), although perhaps Detroit City bucks this trend – this may go against him in the Triumph. Tomorrow’s race is over 2m4f, which looks ideal – the soft ground looks a little less ideal though. I’m guessing that they’d prefer to run him on better ground but need to get him out now as Cheltenham is so close.
The odds on favourite, My Turn Now, is a year older and is conceding a stone. He’s been a class act this year, winning four on the bounce on testing ground before falling at the last in the Tolworth when looking like a possible winner. His owners advertised him for sale the week before the Tolworth – a fair point to try and cash in, but it makes me wonder if they believe he has what it takes to progress from here. He lay on the ground for ten minutes after his fall, winded and probably exhausted – Charlie Mann reported no ill effects, but with six hurdle races this season already and a crashing fall like that I’d like to see him take a longer break. Classy though he is I’d struggle to back him at the prevailing 2-1 on over a distance 3f longer than he has ever run before.
I haven’t spoken to Gary Moore about Shardakhan, but although he can’t claim to be in the same class as the two principals he might be the value alternative for this particular race. He’s solid and should be staying on at the end – Win and place for me.
The only other race I looked at was the mares race at 2.00, where I’m wondering if Philip Hobbs can work a little of his magic with Picacho. This ex John Dunlop filly has been very lightly raced, but with no major gaps – either she was still immature or perhaps is a little infirm somewhere. She went for £25k in the sale – about the right price given her 67 rating. She has the right breeding for the NH game and goes on the soft – Darren O’Dwyer takes 7lb off. This is a very weak race – I may get tempted in.