Warwick weekend winners Imperial Alcazar and Adrimel are under the spotlight in this week's 'Weights & Measures' as Ben Linfoot chats to Fergal O'Brien and Tom Lacey.
Fergal O’Brien believes the 8lb rise the handicapper has given IMPERIAL ALCAZAR following his victory in the Pertemps qualifier at Warwick on Saturday leaves him vulnerable to the Irish challenge in the final itself at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
Imperial Alcazar was cut to a general 14/1 for the Pertemps following an impressive weekend victory at Warwick, where he was eased down close to the line after bounding clear with his ears pricked after the last.
Given a patient ride by Paddy Brennan, he travelled through the race like he had a class advantage over his rivals and he accounted for a couple of in-form horses comfortably with Mr Harp and Come On Teddy beaten into second and third, respectively.
“He’s come out of it very well,” O’Brien said on Tuesday. “It was a good run, but over a half a stone is an awful lot, we were thinking 4lb or 5lb, so it’s double what we thought he should have got.
“I think we’ll target the Pertemps Final now. The worry is what comes over from Ireland as you need to have plenty in hand. We were second in it with Barney Dwan when Presenting Percy came over doing cartwheels up the home straight.
“The English handicapper needs to really look at how he assesses the Irish horses when they come over.
“If they’re ballsy enough to come and run at the Festival perhaps they should be made to come and qualify over here, made to run in the English qualifiers for the Pertemps.
“It would take a clever man to get one to run around Warwick on Saturday, finish in the first six and still have plenty in hand. I just think they need to come over at least once to get properly assessed for the Festival.”
Irish-trained horses have won the last five renewals of the Pertemps with all of them qualifying in Ireland – bar last year when Gordon Elliott’s Sire Du Berlais ran fourth at Warwick, boosting the record of Saturday’s race in the final itself.
Jonjo O’Neill’s Holywell also ran second in the Warwick qualifier before winning the final at Cheltenham back in 2013.
The good news for connections of Imperial Alcazar is that a rating from the mid-140s and upwards has not been a barrier to Pertemps success. Sire Du Berlais is a dual winner of the race off marks of 145 and 152, the aforementioned Presenting Percy won it off 146 and Fingal Bay did so off 148.
So could Imperial Alcazar still have a bit more up his sleeve off a mark of 147? He does have a Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle entry, after all.
O’Brien said: “The Stayers’ Hurdle entry was made just in case the Irish horses couldn’t come over and that would deplete that race, it would give us an option, but realistically of course we’re looking at the Pertemps.
“He’s a lovely horse, I’ve been telling that to the owners for two-and-a-half years or something, so it’s no surprise he went and did that the other day.
“We were actually meant to go chasing this year and start off at Haydock, but then the ground went away from us, we had a bit of frost and couldn’t get out and do as much schooling as we wanted.
“So we just decided to stay over hurdles. He’s still young, raw and immature and a race like the other day will really benefit him mentally as much as anything else.”
As for those beaten on Saturday, runner-up Mr Harp wouldn’t get in the Pertemps off his revised rating of 126 and probably needs to go up at least another 6lb or 7lb if he was to sneak in, while third home Come On Teddy remains on a rating of 134 which should see him make the cut.
He’d need to improve again to be a player, but he does at least have some good Cheltenham-winning form on the New Course to his name if he does bid to follow in the hoofprints of Holywell and Sire Du Berlais.
In its short history the Ballymore Leamington Novices’ Hurdle has become a good pointer to Cheltenham Festival success with No Refuge, The New One and Willoughby Court all going on to win the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle on the back of victory at Warwick.
The New One won Saturday’s race by 16 lengths in 2013 and went into Cheltenham rated 152, while Willoughby Court was awarded a mark of 147 after his eight-length win in 2017, but ADRIMEL’s victory in the 2021 vintage was much more hard-fought with just three lengths separating the first five home.
He showed a tremendous attitude in first-time cheekpieces to see off all challengers, though, all while carrying the burden of a 3lb penalty, with the heavy ground very much playing to the six-year-old's strengths.
A new rating of 142 gives trainer Tom Lacey options, although he did stress, that while Adrimel will get several entries for the Cheltenham Festival, a dry spell could see his horse put away for the year.
“It was a very good performance and if he hadn’t missed the last he might’ve been even more impressive,” Lacey said.
“You can’t crab the horse, he keeps winning.
“He’s gone up 10lb to 142 and handicaps are a potential option. The Martin Pipe could be a possible off that rating, the race has an emphasis on stamina.
“He’ll have an entry in the Ballymore and the Albert Bartlett, as well, but it wouldn’t worry me if he doesn’t run again this year.
“Let’s just see what the spring weather brings. He’d need soft ground to run in March I would think. He was never bought to win hurdle races, he was bought to win decent steeplechases.”
Talking of decent steeplechases, Lacey issued a positive bulletin about his Randox Health Grand National hopeful KIMBERLITE CANDY, a best of 28/1 for the Aintree showpiece in April.
Rated 153, the Becher Chase second will next be out at Ascot next month, after the weights for the National have been released.
“He’s in great nick,” Lacey said. “He did a nice piece of work this [Tuesday] morning and he will go to the Listed Keltbray Swinley handicap chase at Ascot on February 20.
“Aintree’s always been our primary focus since the summer and he’s got all the right credentials for the National. He hit the line very hard at Warwick last year.
“He looks an ideal National horse but again, spring ground is the question mark. He wants a little bit of dig in the ground but they do a great job watering at Aintree and a rain shower or two would make all the difference.”
Finally, a quick word on the Betfair Hurdle (Newbury, February 13) after a couple of the entries ran at the weekend.
Alan King’s EDWARDSTONE bounced back from a quickly-aborted novice chasing campaign with a confidence-boosting win in a four-runner handicap hurdle at Market Rasen on Saturday and he went up 5lb to 146 on the back of it.
If he goes to Newbury he’ll run under a 5lb penalty, so will effectively be running off his revised rating.
Meanwhile SKY PIRATE continued to restore his reputation after another very impressive win over fences in the Edward Courage Cup Handicap Chase over two miles.
Up 7lb to 152, his potential options were discussed in Saturday’s analysis, but it sounds as though Jonjo O’Neill won’t be tempted to try and take advantage of what is now a 12lb lower hurdles mark in the Betfair Hurdle.
Perhaps that says plenty for stablemate Soaring Glory’s chance, a 133-rated novice hurdler who beat Bravemansgame at Chepstow in October. His form claims could be enhanced further by Llandinabo Lad at Haydock this weekend.
Achille ⬆ 5lb to 138
Adrimel ⬆ up 10lb to 142
Amoola Gold ⬆ 3lb to 146
Bear Ghylls ⬆ 10lb to 140
Buveur d’Air new rating of 163
Captain Chaos ⬇ 1lb to 135
Come On Teddy remains on 134
Cyclop ⬆ 10lb to 135
Edwardstone ⬆ 5lb to 146
Imperial Alcazar ⬆ 8lb to 147
Janika new ratings of 160c and 147h
Mengli Khan new hurdles rating 142
Mint Condition ⬆ 3lb to 138
Mr Harp ⬆ 3lb to 126
Next Destination ⬆ 4lb to 153
Notachance ⬆ 7lb to 146
On The Blind Side ⬆ 1lb to 153
Port Of Mars ⬆ 10lb to 140
Sky Pirate ⬆ 7lb to 152
Stratagem ⬆ 5lb to 145
Walk In The Mill ⬇ 2lb to 147
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