The shape of things to come

Attentions turned to Down Royal this weekend; the jumping stars were out in force and the 2011/12 National Hunt season is now in full flow. Friday’s Grade Two Hurdle, saw the seasonal reappearance of last years’s NAP, Oscars Well. He travelled strongly until lack of race fitness caught up with him, finishing only a 3 ¾ lengths third behind The Real Article who is progressing at a rate of knots.

Although fitness was clearly an issue in his defeat, I wonder if two miles is the correct trip for Oscars Well? Two miles in stamina sapping ground yes, but I’m not convinced he is a true two miler. That opinion has nothing to do with my love of reigning Champion Hurdler Hurricane Fly (yeah right – JP). I would love to see a real challenger emerge to the Fly for what would make a great race spectacle. Think Monksfield and Sea Pigeon. We’ll find out more about Oscars Well and his quest for two mile glory when he clashes with the main man himself in the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown on 20 November.

The Real Article is a horse going places and going places fast. He can travel like a dream while oozing class. He will now be aimed at races such as The Fighting Fifth and The Hattons Grace. If he continues in this vein, I could certainly see him finishing in the frame in the Champion Hurdle.

Kalann who finished in second place showed us he is improving all the time. This was a very good performance by the four year old. He was very impressive last time out at Cheltenham and was only rerouted here due to the weight he was allotted in his intended target of the Greatwood Hurdle.

Quito De La Roque showed his staying power to full effect when grinding on past the non-staying Sizing Europe to take the Grade One Champion Chase. It was only three weeks ago that he was suffering from a slight leg problem and was reportedly only 90% fit for this assignment. All of that taken into account makes his win here all the more impressive.

Will we now get to see him at Cheltenham? It was widely touted last year that connections felt he was best on a flat track and swerved the Festival in favour of Aintree. However the undulations of Down Royal did not inconvenience him too much. He will now receive entries in the John Durkan Chase at Punchestown and the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas. The 20/1 for the Gold Cup is too big; there is so much improvement to come in the capable hands of Colm Murphy.

It breaks my heart to see Sizing Europe weary and legless over three miles. Connections are keen to take a shot at the King George, a plan that was last year scuppered by the bad weather. Kempton is an easy three miles but I still don’t see him winning. His class would carry him into a place but I really don’t want to see him there. He could easily win another Queen Mother Champion Chase and would win a Ryanair as he would get 2m5f. I just hope these attempts at three miles aren’t leaving a mark on this brave and talented soul.

As his famous half-brother Kauto Star enters the twilight of his career, Kauto Stone heralded his arrival onto the jumps scene with trumpet sounds and a gun salute!  He was most impressive in winning the Grade Two Chase. This was an introduction that was stamped firmly with the word exciting.

I was disappointed with the performance of Galway Plate winner Blazing Tempo, sent off the 6/4 favourite. She didn’t look happy at any stage and was beaten 14 ½ lengths into third. Hopefully this is a minor blip from a mare that holds some high profile entries.