Horses in focus - catching the eye late on....

Last Updated: 17.11.2021

Wednesday, 17th November 2021

Horses in focus - catching the eye late on….

When they cleared the third fence in Saturday’s Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham there were already 30-odd lengths between the front horse and the tail….

They went a fair clip. Coole Cody and Simply The Betts were on the front end – with Midnight Shadow, Paint The Dream, Lalor and Manofthemountain sitting in behind….

Had Coole Cody not crashed out at the penultimate fence it’s reasonable to assume he’d have played a part in the finish….

As it was, Midnight Shadow ran out the winner. Lalor finished in 3rd (beaten 2.25 lengths). Simply The Betts finished in 6th (beaten 5.75 lengths)….

Being up with the pace – however hot – wasn’t a bad place to be….

  • Against the grain.... 

Prominent racers often do well on the Old chase course at Cheltenham – especially in races short of the 3m trip….

It was certainly the case at last week’s meeting….

There were eight chases run across the 3-days and the winners of six earned comments in running that read: ‘made all’;  ‘led’; ‘tracked leader’; ‘led’; ‘pressed leader’; and ‘made all’….

Nube Negra was an exception in the Shloer Chase – but only four went to post and I don’t read too much into it….

The other exception was Strictlyadancer in the 3m1f handicap for amateur jockeys. His win was produced in a field of 13 and represents a proper against-the-grain win….

Christian Williams thought his charge was too far back early doors to get into things under 5lb claimer Ben Bromley….

But accurate jumping kept him in it and he travelled nicely into proceedings – taking it up 3 out, keeping to his work and staying on strong….

When horses do something others haven’t managed – either in a race or across a meeting – it can be a sign they’ve got something in hand….

Strictlyadancer has posted career-bests in each of his last two goes and – though he’s been put up an aggregate of 12lbs for the back-to-back wins he’s put together this term on the Old course at Cheltenham – he’s still rated just 122 and there could be more to come….

He’s certainly improved this year and he’s only 7. As a staying chaser his best days may well lie ahead of him…. 

But back to the main thread….

  • Narrow and tight.... 

It can be difficult for patiently ridden horses to make up ground on the old course….

It’s a tighter course than the new course to begin with….

And because they set it up at meetings ahead of the Festival in such a way as to save fresh ground for the March fixture – the track is narrowed and rides tighter still….

Which make it doubly difficult for horses ridden off the pace. They have less room to manoeuvre when trying to negotiate a passage late on through weakening rivals or fallers…. 

The prominent races have the edge. Midnight Shadow had the toe to go with the early pace and hold his position – and he stuck it out late on. Fair play….

But he only beat Protektorat 0.75 lengths – and that one had come from much further back….

At the last fence Midnight Shadow – out on his own – still had 10 lengths and maybe a bit more on Dan Skelton’s horse. But Protektorat very nearly overhauled him….

Yes, Midnight Shadow got tired, tied up and lost a bit of concentration. But take nothing away from the Skelton horse. Had the post been another 20 yards up the track he’d have won….

No doubt Protektorat will be down as a winner in waiting on a lot of punters’ Watch Lists. Lalor too made up lots of ground late on – and punters will back Paul Nicholls to win something with him….

Dostal Phil was another that caught the eye with his finishing effort. The step up in trip suited. He was doing his best work late and will get further still. And he may be more potent on proper winter ground….

He beat Funambule Sivola 5.5 lengths in a novice handicap on heavy ground at Newbury in January off levels when they were both rated 130….

Funambule Sivola is now rated 156 whilst Dostal Phil is still only rated 143 after being put up a pound for Saturday’s performance. He’s potentially nicely handicapped….

Philip Hobbs – who bounced back to form at the weekend after a lean spell – can pick up a big handicap pot with the 8yo. No doubt….

  • My take out.... 

With so many horses making up ground off the pace at the death, I wonder if they went a bit too fast early doors….

I wonder if the pace would have held up better had Coole Cody stood up and given Midnight Shadow something to run up the hill with….

I wonder if Coole Cody’s fall was bad luck or a mishap born of tiredness – another symptom of that red hot early pace….

Who knows? It panned out as it did. But the horse I’ll be taking from the race is Galahad Quest – the one I put up and who hit the frame in 5th….

He didn’t catch the eye like the others making up ground at the end. But he came from further back than most….

Dostal Phil finished better but Galahad Quest lost a little momentum at a key point when negotiating a weakening Paint Your Dream….

But he regathered himself and cracked on again – edging out multiple horses at the death to make 5th. He was closest at the finish….

The bottom line is that he ran well from a disadvantageous position….

He’s only 5; he’s only had 5 goes over fences; he’s gaining experience; he’s still learning; he wants further; he wants softer ground; and he’ll improve….

He’s been dropped a pound to 134 – a workable mark for Nick Williams….

  • The final word….

That’s all for today. Back tomorrow. Meanwhile….

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Stay tuned.

Nick Pullen

Against the Crowd