Mark Howard Publications Ltd

Great day for Gordon

11-February-2023 18:23
in General
by Admin

When speaking to Chris Gordon in late summer for OJA, the one race the Winchester based handler said he would dearly like to win is the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury. Remiluc (3rd in 2020), Annual Invictus (4th in 2021) and Lord Baddesley (4th last year) have all run well in recent years and he was hoping novice Leave of Absence would develop into his prime contender this time around. Unfortunately, an injury sustained when winning at Ascot in late October ruled the novice out for the season but Gordon landed the valuable prize with one of his stable stars Aucunrisque in any case. Reverting back to timber and taking advantage of a lenient mark compared to his chase rating, the No Risk At All gelding made all the running before fending off the challenge of Irish raider Filey Bay. Rated 138, he prevailed by a length with the pair pulling clear of the remainder. At his best when fresh and running on flat tracks, it was a superb result for his trainer who, following a quiet spell in early January, has his team in prime condition once again. Indeed, Gordon has sent out 8 winners from 18 runners during the last fortnight. 

Aucunrisque was certainly on the shortlist when I was previewing the race in the February Update. As far as the selections were concerned, Yorksea (advised @ 33/1) ran on strongly to finish fourth having been off the bridle early on and never looking like getting involved. I fear Gary Moore's runner found the ground too lively, a comment which applies to Icare Allen. Jonjo O'Neill reported that was the case afterwards, whilst I was disappointed with No Ordinary Joe's finishing effort having held every chance at the third last.

Last weekend's Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown set the pulse racing with a number of exciting performances. The action at Newbury and Warwick on Saturday provided exactly the opposite. Even Jonbon struggled to beat the 136 rated Calico conceding five pounds in the Grade 2 Kingmaker Novices' Chase at the latter venue. Nicky Henderson's gelding had looked imperious at the same track and Sandown earlier in the campaign but looked in trouble halfway down the backstraight on this occasion. The dual Grade 1 winner remains unbeaten over fences but it wasn't the ideal prep and it was no surprise to see El Fabiolo surge to the top of the ante-post market for the Arkle Trophy. 

Staying on the jumping theme, I fully agree with Ted Walsh's comments in the Racing Post regarding the Grand National. The fact that only 31 of the 85 entries are British trained is a worrying trend. Compare that to Gordon Elliott's 21 entries alone. Walsh highlighted the fact that the Sam Thomas trained Iwilldoit is ineligible - a ten year old, rated 155 who has won the Welsh National, Welsh National trial and Warwick Classic (all between 2m 7f - 3m 6f). The Flying Legend gelding isn't allowed to compete in the Grand National because he has only raced five times over fences - they need to have run six times over the larger obstacles. The rule was invented to keep the anti-racing supporters quiet and therefore fingers couldn't be pointed at inexperienced horses but Iwilldoit has run 18 times during his career. Ironically, Sam Thomas' horse will be eligible for veteran chases this year. Along with the rule whereby novices can only race in the major handicaps following three (fences) or four (hurdles), racing has once again shot itself in the foot. 

As discussed, I am heading south early next week to conduct a series of interviews for Ahead On The Flat. It is fair to say with small fields, drying ground and a distinct lack of quality at presence, with a few exceptions, British National Hunt racing is hardly thriving at present. However, having delved through the strings for 2023 for some of the top Flat stables, there is no shortage of top-class horses and wealthy owners. Indeed, British Flat racing appears to be swimming in money. I will be back to update the Diary on my return.

In the meantime, please head to the Publications section of the site to order the One Jump Ahead Updates for the Cheltenham Festival and Aintree Grand National. 


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