The Betfair Chase was dominated by Silviniaco Conti from start to finish. Allowed to make his own pace, Ruby Walsh controlled the race jumping well in the lead. Turning for home the final time, he quickened into the fourth last; from that point, he had the rest at full stretch. A slight mistake at the last failed to halt his progress and he kept on gamely up the run-in.
I find it somewhat of a surprise he misses the King George given Paul Nicholls comments at Aintree in April. He suggested a flat track suits the horse. Whilst it is clear from his profile he dislikes the period from December to February (four runs four losses), he is yet to prove himself to the unique test that is Prestbury Park. In addition, Nicholls suggested he might go straight to the race. Given his relative inexperience and the fact that Gold Cup winners rarely have such a long break prior to the race, one has to question the wisdom of that thought. One thing that will stand him in good stead is fast accurate jumping.
Long Run ran, according to my provisional FSF ratings, just below his effort in the race last season. One has to question why Waley-Cohen did not press the leader going into the back straight for the final time. Whilst his jumping was clumsy on occasions, overall he jumped better than last year. The jockey would have known it was likely to turn into a sprint up the home straight and should perhaps have taken on his market rival halfway down the back straight. In fairness to the horse, he gave his all to the bitter end. His profile displays he upped his game in 2010 and 2011 by 9lb or thereabouts following his seasonal reappearance. This would appear to auger well for his King George bid. My feeling on Waley-Cohen is he is competent and strong. King George and Gold Cup successes advertised his talent. Quite understandably, the likes of Walsh and McCoy will always have the call if it comes down to a test of strength and experience in the saddle.
The Giant Bolster ran an excellent race. Outpaced down the back straight for the final time, he battled his way back and kept on gamely in the home straight. I suggest he is a better horse at Cheltenham and this bodes well for the season ahead. I am unsure if Kempton Park would be the wisest decision; that track would not play to his strengths. Weird Al also ran well though one can never be sure if he will reproduce his effort. In addition, he does not look the most straightforward of fellows.
Over at Ascot, Captain Chris returned to something like his best form. He ran around 8lb below his very best seeing the race out in good style. In addition, he jumped well through the race. Happiest going right-handed, he deserves another shot at the King George as he will arrive in better shape. For Non Stop ran close to his best while Ghizao ran his best race since Aintree 2011.
Oscar Whisky bolted up in the Ascot Hurdle. Jumping well in the lead, he relished the ground and trip to win effortlessly. He appears to be improving and a Champion Hurdle bid is not out of the question given easy ground. Raya Star continues to run well though he may be forced down the chasing route given his handicap mark. Brampour appears best coming off a faster pace while Get Me Out Of Here continued the dismal run of Jonjo’s horses (4-74 in November).
Others worth honourable mentions in defeat include Katkeau (still thereabouts when hitting the third last in the Betfair Hurdle) and Universal Soldier (Welsh National looks realistic target). Given their respective optimum conditions, Champion Court (two and a half miles on good or good to soft) and Toubab (two-miles on good or good to soft), suggested they will be stepping up on what they achieved behind Williams Wishes at Ascot.
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