Weights & Measures: The Tolworth
Ben Linfoot looks at how the handicapper responded to the action at Kempton and Warwick at the weekend.
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1. Royal Boy>>>> Up 11lb to 149
2. Josses Hill>>>> Introduced at 148
3. Upazo>>>> ????
4. Garde La Victoire>>>> Remains on 138
5. The Liquidator>>>> Introduced at 142
Nobody was more pleased than Nicky Henderson, in the end, that the Tolworth was saved. Royal Boy knuckled down to see off Josses Hill for a Seven Barrows one-two, and the pair were 11 lengths clear of the rest for good measure. Royal Boy, whose connections aborted a novice chasing campaign following a disappointing fencing debut at Kempton, was put up 11lb in the hurdle ratings by the handicapper and is now rated 149. Considering how he's been previously campaigned, how stamina won the race for him at the weekend and what Henderson said afterwards, the Neptune looks the race for him at the Festival. The New One was rated 155 after his Neptune win last year and there are a handful of horses in the high 140s, including Royal Boy, who will go into the race with fairly solid claims. The Tullow Tank, also rated 149, is another (unless he goes for the Sky Bet Supreme), as is Royal Boy's stablemate, Challow Hurdle victor Captain Cutter (147). Deputy Dan, too, who won at Warwick on Saturday, is now rated 145 but you might conclude that he'll need the mud to be flying. However, Faugheen really could be a cut above them all. He thrashed Josses Hill by 22 lengths in his Punchestown bumper and the 5/1 about him is beginning to disappear. It's understandable. The Tolworth was just Josses Hill's third start since he was thrashed by Faugheen but he's done nothing wrong since. He travelled into the race like the best horse, led by the narrowest of margins at the last and was just out-stayed when the going got tough. He's right in the mix for the Sky Bet Supreme considering his rating of 148. To put that into context, the shortest-priced British horse in the Supreme market is Irving and he's currently rated 143. From what we've seen on the track, Josses Hill deserves the utmost respect, but, through no fault of his own, he's yet to prove that Cheltenham will suit. My gut feeling is that it won't. The Liquidator's run was below-par. Lydia Hislop suggested in her Road To Cheltenham column that his forcing tactics resulted in 'bursting' a stayer and that could certainly have been the case, especially when you consider David Pipe's pre-race concerns about the speed element of the track. Still, Tom Scudamore was nudging him along very early in the piece and it wouldn't surprise if he was off his game because of a physical reason. The handicapper introduces him at 142 and interestingly that's within the ratings band for the Martin Pipe Conditionals Handicap Hurdle at the Festival over two miles and five furlongs. That could be his trip and Pipe, who has yet to win his father's race, ran one of his best novices in the contest last year when Gevrey Chambertin took part.
1. Saphir Du Rheu>>>> Up 13lb to 158
2. If In Doubt>>>> Up 3lb to 135
3. Like Minded>>>> Up 2lb to 137
4. Spirit Of Shankly>>>> Remains on 136
As if Andy Stewart needed another horse to go to war with in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle. With four times winner Big Buck's set to make his long awaited comeback in the Cleeve and Celestial Halo, a horse that has put in the best effort from a staying hurdler this season (Long Distance Hurdle, Newbury - 165), all set to try and better his second from last year, he had a pretty strong hand anyway. But you can add Saphir Du Rheu to the list of his potential World beaters following his second successive romp in a handicap. This time he's gone up 13lb to a mark of 158 and you wouldn't rule out further improvement for the step up in trip to three miles. More Of That was rated 160 after his Relkeel success and Reve De Sivola 162 following his Long Walk victory, so Saphir Du Rheu hasn't much to find to compete with those immediately ahead of him in the World Hurdle betting. Of course, Big Buck's could blow them all away, but you couldn't back him with any confidence after his lengthy absence and 20/1 about the potentially green-capped Stewart runner is fair. The horses in behind Saphir Du Rheu don't have such lofty ambitions at present, but both If In Doubt and Spirit Of Shankly will be worth keeping an eye on in the Festival handicaps. The latter, in particularly, ran an eye-catching race on his handicap debut. He was outpaced on the turn for home but stayed on well from two out. The blood and thunder of a Coral Cup with the stiff Cheltenham finish might just suit him perfectly.
1. Lyvius>>>> Up 8lb to 140
2. Deep Trouble>>>> Up 7lb to 140
3. Lexi's Boy>>>> Remains on 134
The front two fought out a thrilling finish to this two mile handicap hurdle and pulled well clear, eight lengths to be exact, of the third. They were representing two hot Cheltenham handicaps from earlier in the season and boosted the collateral form of some exciting Betfair Hurdle hopes. Lyvius was beaten four lengths by The Skyfarmer at Cheltenham, Philip Hobbs' charge asserting late on despite Richard Johnson dropping his whip. The Skyfarmer was raised 11lb to 134 after his Cheltenham win, but is now rated 140 without striding out onto a racecourse since. Lyvius isn't the only one to frank The Skyfarmer's form, as Uhlan Bute has finished second and first since being well beaten at Cheltenham and the handicapper's reassessment is understandable. A top-priced 16/1 for the Betfair, The Skyfarmer is an interesting horse for that race but has options at Taunton and Ascot this weekend. Deep Trouble boosted Quick Jack's form yet again and he is a Betfair possible too. However, Tony Martin's charge has an alternative assignment in the Boylesports.com Handicap Hurdle at Leopardstown on January 25, and if he goes there, racing off his Irish mark of 119, he looks absolutely thrown in. The sponsors opened a book on the race on Tuesday but cut him to 5/1 from 8s within two hours - it's surprising it took that long. He could go off a crazy price.
1. Corrin Wood>>>> Up 12lb to 156
2. Black Thunder>>>> Remains on 153
This was a very good performance from Donald McCain's bold-jumping grey and he was underestimated in the RSA Chase market immediately after the race. Prices around 25/1 were freely available and though he's settled down at around 16/1 now, there could be some juice in his odds yet. Black Thunder is a good yardstick and he gives the form a solid look to it, indeed, you won't find a better piece of form from a novice chaser in the RSA betting. Raised 12lb to 156, Corrin Wood is judged to be 8lb better than Smad Place and 7lb better than Le Bec on what we've seen so far, yet those two are the same price or shorter in the RSA market. Of course, trusting the ratings of novices can be a fruitless exercise given the potential that these lightly-raced chasers are capable of, but even so, Corrin Wood is already performing to a very high standard. To give us some idea of the level he is at, the average rating of RSA winners post-Cheltenham in the last 12 years is 154. No wonder McCain is leaning towards the Grade One option rather than the National Hunt Chase, for which he is one of the favourites. However, McCain, of course, was already hinting Grand National for this fellow in the future, so presumably the four-miler is also an appealing option. And thinking back to last year, McCain's Super Duty looked highly likely to go for the RSA before turning up in the Kim Muir, so who knows? Wherever he goes, he shouldn't be underestimated. One concern is his inclination to jump to the right. Though only slight, it would have to be acknowledged when siding for or against him at the Festival.
1. Uncle Jimmy>>>> Up 7lb to 140
2. Grand Vision>>>> Up 2lb to 142
3. Drop Out Joe>>>> Remains on 129
"We came to get the horse qualified for the Final, but I suspect he'll need to be off 137-plus to get in." The words of trainer Philip Hobbs, whose wish was handicapper Martin Greenwood's command as Uncle Jimmy was consequently raised half a stone to a mark of 140. He's not the only potential Hobbs representative in the Pertemps though. Pateese and So Fine are possibilities too after a truly remarkable set of results from Hobbs' horses in Pertemps qualifiers this season. From seven runners in these usually competitive heats, Hobbs has had two thirds, two seconds and two winners. The runner-up at Warwick, though, Colin Tizzard's Grand Vision, is potentially even more interesting for the Final. He was third in Brindisi Breeze's Albert Bartlett in 2012 but missed the whole of last season through injury. Pulled up on his comeback at Cheltenham on New Year's Day (when sent off 4/1), this was much more like it. A tad keen in the early stages, he should settle better in a big field in the Pertemps and considering that Albert Bartlett run, when beaten just over a length by Boston Bob, he could be a huge player (currently available at 25/1 in a place).
1. Shotgun Paddy>>>> Up 7lb to 152
2. Carruthers>>>> Remains on 150
3. Royale Knight>>>> Down 2lb to 122
Shotgun Paddy's Classic Chase victory was an exceptional effort for a novice and he further franked Black Thunder's - and consequently Corrin Wood's - form after being beaten by Paul Nicholls' horse in his two previous races. The step up in trip helped him defy a mark of 145 on his handicap debut and if he does go for the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham, he'll be certainly one of the highest rated in the line-up off a new mark of 152. That's why he's favourite for the race at around 10/1, but while stamina clearly won't be an issue, he might not turn up if the ground isn't riding soft. It looks a pre-requisite for him. He made one or two slight jumping errors as well, though you'd forgive a novice that around Warwick in such testing conditions. He looks a very smart stayer indeed. Carruthers ran an absolute blinder on his first start of the season in a reapplied tongue tie. The handicapper has left him alone on 150 and on this evidence he may have a swansong left in him yet. His attacking style makes him a joy to watch and though he's going to be susceptible to younger rivals, he'll be a force given the right conditions. Clearly, he goes very well for Nico de Boinville and his handy claim might just help this veteran to a tenth career success.
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