Our team reflect upon the pick of the action from last weekend across Ireland, Britain and America.
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Two major graded chases on Saturday and two 'surprise' winners. What did you make of the two races?
Will Hayler: I love the Charlie Hall, always have done and always will do. One Man, See More Business, Grey Abbey. Memorable, memorable performances that will live long in my memory. But I fear this year's race won't go down as one of the all-time greats, or even one of the quite goods - indeed had Master Of The Hall not capsized, we might even have been hailing a Micky Hammond-trained Grade Two winner. Harry Topper is a very likeable horse, but I'm not sure he's going to be easy to place now. As for the Down Royal race, I was only left feeling sad afterwards. Sad for Keith Donoughue, sad for Mount Benbulben and sad for the connections of Sizing Europe who once again found that heavy rain scuppered their chances of proving once and for all that their wonderful horse either can or cannot be as effective over three miles.
Michael Shinners: I was at Wetherby and thought the ride Jason Maguire gave Harry Topper was sensational. He was very hesitant at his fences and looked a little clumsy, however, the way he came back on the bridle approaching the straight was impressive. The form is difficult to asses with Long Run disappointing and Wayward Prince only just beaten in second. We shortened up Harry Topper into 20/1 from 25/1 for the Gold Cup.
In Ireland Roi De Mee was very impressive, although again the form is difficult to evaluate as it appears a number of horses failed to give their running. The way he jumps and clearly loves his racing means he is a very likeable sort and I would have thought he could be a Ryanair type.
Matt Brocklebank: Roi Du Mee's 13-length defeat of Sizing Europe in the Grade One at Down Royal was rather out of the blue but Gordon Elliott's charge did enjoy a fantastic time of things last season and is clearly very hard to peg back once he gets into a jumping rhythm. He'll have to carry plenty of weight if plotting a similar route to last season, but he looks more likely to stay at the top table and help boost Gigginstown's already strong hand in races such as the Lexus and Irish Hennessy. I was delighted to see Harry Topper get the better of Wayward Prince in the Charlie Hall as Kim Bailey's six-year-old has the most potential. He probably hasn't received enough credit for the performance given his early jumping mistakes in the race and I expect him to have a very good season if kept to soft ground.
Ian Brindle: Roi Du Mee probably shouldn't have been the surprise that many people suggested in fairness as his best form has obtained on the going previously and he's made a habit of winning races in the early part of the season. Sizing Europe predictably paddled as the stamina gave out while First Lieutenant has to go down as a bitter disappointment given the way he dropped out quickly having travelled apparently well.
The shadow over the Charlie Hall will be the closeness of the second but take nothing away from the winner who did it well despite belting a few on the way round! Long Run to his credit responded well after completely missing out one down the back but if you've got problems you'll get found out in top company so Nicky Henderson is probably relieved to have discovered the ailment rather than come back finding nothing. Cape Tribulation drifted like a barge beforehand and appeared to look as a big as a bull on those pictures. It'd be no surprise to see him come on plenty for the run with the later season targets being very much on the radar. Either way, I'm pretty sure we haven't seen the 2014 Gold Cup winner there.
Ben Linfoot: Sadly, both failed to live up to expectations with disappointing results in both. I fear Harry Topper will be more 'Ollie Magern' than 'Silviniaco Conti' and he's going to be hard to place from now on. Wetherby is a track that can throw up a specialist and you would have to put Wayward Prince in that category while I was disappointed with Unioniste. I thought he might be a bit better than that but the jury is out. Long Run ran a stinker and perhaps he does have a genuine excuse that a trachea wash may or may not prove in the coming days. However, I can't help but feel his best days are behind him now. As for the Down Royal race, Roi Du Mee is tremendously fortunate to be a Grade One winner after all of his opponents disappointed for one reason or another.
Plenty of established names and promising horses were in action over the weekend. Was there any one performance that caught your eye?
MS: There were a number of impressive performances over the weekend, however, the one that really took my eye was Urban Hymn trained by Malcolm Jefferson. He won the bumper at Huntingdon on Sunday in tremendous style. He has come from the point-to-point field but showed plenty of speed to win from what looked a very useful field. He is reported to be now going hurdling and looks a really exciting prospect.
WH: Can I have two please? Roberto Goldback ran pretty well on ground that was much softer than ideal. He could run a big race in the Hennessy, particularly if the excellent Nico Be Boinville stays on board. Tweed will go up to about 86 for winning at Newmarket on Friday, but that might not stop her if connections fancied something like the November Handicap and the ground came up soft.
BL: Yes, that of Many Clouds at Carlisle. He jumped like an old hand on his chasing debut and could be the type to rack up a sequence this winter as heavy ground clearly isn't a problem to him.
IB: I always like watching the novice chasers and I was particularly taken by Raya Star's run at Uttoxeter on Friday afternoon. It doesn't always follow that decent hurdlers make good chasers but the former Scottish Champion Hurdle winner looked a natural over the larger obstacles and I would imagine that on the evidence of what we saw - the owners will have plenty of big dreams ahead.
MB: I was at Wetherby on Saturday and although Cockney Sparrow and Tidal Bay are obvious ones to take out of the meeting with potential big-race targets in mind, I quite liked the performance of Harry Fry's Mendip Express in the novice chase. He jumped to his left at times, so is likely to be kept to anti-clockwise circuits, but he powered past the line 12 lengths clear of his nearest pursuer and appears a good staying prospect.
The Europeans enjoyed a terrific Breeders' Cup but can we take anything out of the meeting for next season and what was your personal highlight?
MB: Chriselliam has suffered a few defeats in her juvenile season but her last two outings have yielded back-to-back top-class victories and Charlie Hills clearly has a very exciting performer on his hands for next season following her impressive Juvenile Fillies Turf success. A personal highlight would have to be Beholder, who I couldn't resist backing for the Distaff having won the Juvenile Fillies last year.
BL: Chriselliam silenced the Fillies' Mile doubters in some style and she looks a filly out of the top drawer. There was a fascinating story in today's Daily Mail by Marcus Townsend with quotes from Charlie Hills saying she could go for the 2000 Guineas against the colts in the spring and with stablemate Kiyoshi a contender in the 1000 perhaps it isn't such a mad idea. Certainly, there doesn't look to be a world beater in the colts' division to be running scared of.
MS: The one horse from a European perspective that really impressed me was Chriselliam. She proved that her victory in the Fillies Mile was no fluke and showed she is a serious contender for next year's QIPCO 1000 Guineas, where Sky Bet are 8/1.
As for a highlight, it has to be Mucho Macho Man who won an absolute thriller in the Breeders' Cup Classic. I thought Gary Stevens gave him an absolute peach of a ride and finished off a brilliant two days of racing at Santa Anita.
IB: Well the obvious one for next year is Dank if James Wigan elects to keep her in training but as we heard Sir Michael Stoute say - he's going to need to be persuasive! Lots of come from behind runs have been given the praise they deserve though Groupie Doll's performance in the Filly & Mare Sprint showed plenty of grit and you could sense that the whole of the track got involved.
WH: Having backed Romantica (small), Giovanni Boldini (medium) and The Fugue (lamentably large), it's not a meeting I want to reflect upon unless it's in the company of a psychotherapist. In my opinion, Ryan Moore was right to kick himself for getting beaten on Giovanni Boldini, but the fact that he saw that as a victory lost rather than being pleased with second is a measure of just how good a jockey he is (see Magician, if - unlike me - you can bear to watch it again). Plenty of other jockeys would have seen finishing second on Giovanni Boldini as a perfectly decent ride, instead of having the awareness and the perfectionism to realise he'd been sucked into unsustainable fractions by the tanking favourite in front.