There have been two runners in the Top 40 Prospects during the last 24 hours and, having threatened turning for home, both horses finished tamely at Exeter and Warwick. The pair are stablemates and, whilst it is widely accepted now that the yard in question have turned the corner with a few winners during the last fortnight, I am not totally convinced. The counter argument is that both horses need further than two miles, which is plausible but both stopped alarmingly quickly from the second last onwards.
Warwick's card was, of course, rescheduled on Monday having been abandoned 48 hours earlier. The highlight was the Grade 2 Kingmaker which saw Allmankind extend his unbeaten record over fences to three. Successful in the Grade 1 Henry VIII Novices' Chase at Sandown on his previous start, Dan Skelton's five year old beat Sky Pirate, who has been in the form of his life this season, by seventeen lengths conceding three pounds to the 152 rated runner-up. The is no doubt the Sea The Moon gelding has a huge amount of talent but he can't afford to replicate some of the mistakes he made at the Midlands track next month in the Arkle Trophy. With Energumene sitting on his tail and Shishkin waiting in the wings, he will be a sitting duck if he does. Nevertheless, he is a remarkable horse and few could have envisaged him winning his first three novice chases, including a Grade 1 and 2, having seemingly had his limitations exposed in last season's Triumph Hurdle.
Talking of tough horses, subscribers to the February Update will be aware that Two For Gold was selected for the three miles handicap chase at Kempton which was formerly known as the Racing Post Chase at the end of the month. Unfortunately, those plans don't look like materialising but Kim Bailey's charge gained compensation with a gutsy display in the two and a half miles handicap chase at Warwick. Wearing cheekpieces for the first time, the eight year old fought off any number of challengers to hold on by a neck. Rated 149, the Grand National is his target.
Capodanno, who is featured in the French Revolution section of One Jump Ahead, produced a somewhat puzzling performance in the two and a half miles novice hurdle at Thurles. Willie Mullins' gelding had won by seven lengths at Clonmel - the runner-up has won since - over two miles on his previous start and was returning to a longer trip here. A late drifter (15/8 from 5/4), Mark Walsh's partner produced a slow jump at the third last and lost his position. Tightened up at the penultimate flight, he stayed on after the last to fill third position. It is worth noting that The Bosses Oscar finished third in the same race twelve months ago before taking his chance in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. It would be no surprise to see the Manduro gelding do something similar. This track looked too tight for the five year old.
Weather permitting, I am working at Carlisle on Tuesday - I will be surprised if it is abandoned - so it will be a good opportunity to catch up with a few jockeys and trainers. In the meantime, please head to the Publications section of the site, if you haven't already ordered a copy of the One Jump Ahead Cheltenham Festival Update. Later in the week, I am hoping to conduct some more interviews for the forthcoming edition of Ahead On The Flat.
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