Our columnist on Master Dino, Laurina, Samcro and a horse on a roll for master trainer David Elsworth.
MASSIVE BAD LUCK FOR MACAIRE
Watching Master Dino in full flow at Plumpton on Sunday was a delight and what a pleasure it was, too, to see and hear Guillaume Macaire again, some six years on from the French genius’s last winner in Britain.
So it was a real blow to discover that the trip had come at a price, with Master Dino’s subsequent lameness being explained by a hairline fracture of a hind leg, which, after being operated on, has put him on the sidelines for the foreseeable future.
This is a setback to every jumping fan for sure but it is a real reverse to owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, although they will hardly be short of some top quality contenders in a couple of months’ time.
Master Dino reminded me of the time, at the beginning of the last decade, when Macaire was a more frequent visitor, in the days when his brilliantly talented galloper Jair Du Cochet was winning races with such Gallic swagger.
He burst onto the scene with an easy win in the Finale Junior Hurdle at Chepstow in December, 2000 before romping home by 30 lengths at Cheltenham the following month. I also recall him brightening up an afternoon at Folkestone with a typically classy win in a novice chase.
The highlight of his chasing career was his comprehensive defeat of Best Mate in the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon in November 2003. Earlier that year, his regular rider Jacques Ricou, who used to ride incredibly short, had given him too much to do in the RSA Chase!
Jair Du Cochet started favourite for the King George VI Chase after Huntingdon but ruined his chance with a bad blunder in the early part of the contest. Then, after bouncing back by hacking up in the Cotswold Chase with ease, he was set for an eagerly awaited rematch with Best Mate in the Gold Cup.
Sadly, it wasn’t to be as while working at home just a week before the big race he broke, ironically, a hind leg - in this case too badly to be saved. He was only seven-years-old. Best Mate of course went on to win his historic third Gold Cup.
At least we can hope that Master Dino, who has just turned five, will be back.
Master Dino is a son of Doctor Dino, the French-based stallion (at Henri Devin’s Haras du Mesnil near Le Mans) and he has enjoyed quite a run of late.
His son Sharjah has developed into a top hurdler, winning the Grade 1 Morgiana and Christmas Hurdles at Punchestown and Leopardstown respectively.
In between those two successes, his daughter La Bague Au Roi beat the boys in the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton while Sceau Royal continues to fly high for Messrs Munir and Souede and of course started his career with Monsieur Macaire.
LAURINA HAS BOOKIES RUNNING FOR COVER!
While it was great to see Laurina over here last Saturday, her stroll at Sandown against one inferior rival told us very little other than that she is fit and well. But it also teased and excited us because she is still unbeaten, exudes class and could be very, very special indeed.
I was almost as interested in how the bookmakers would react to her Champion Hurdle prices because we all had the hunch that they would, irrespectively, be taking out the scissors. Indeed, she is now as short as 3-1 second favourite.
Bookmakers were criticised for taking such drastic action on the back of an exhibition match but they are running a business and I suppose at around 5-1 at the start of this New Year, Laurina appealed as a free each-way bet for many. Now that option has been taken away.
And you have to ask yourself, would you stick your neck out about Laurina and keep the 9-2? Given that Willie Mullins reported that Ruby Walsh kept taking a pull on her because “she just wanted to go faster and faster and he (Ruby) said he never really got going” were comments that would strike fear into any would-be layer!
You just knew that Ruby, riding her for the first time, was very impressed and that’s another reason why I wouldn’t want to accept any wagers on her.
Let’s see what unfolds if she lines up for the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown on February 3. Her trainer says it may come too soon after Saturday but that doesn’t wash. Let’s see here again Willie – please!
SO, SAMCRO WAS A SICK HORSE
There had to be something wrong with Samcro, judging by the way he checked out so quickly in the Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown over Christmas. Travelling like the winner approaching the final flight, he was a spent force in just a few more strides.
Sure enough, the discovery of a deep-seated lung infection this week would explain everything and I would imagine come as a huge relief to connections.
However, I do wonder how long he has been suffering from that? And will there be any longer-lasting damage? Let’s hope not.
I recall Time For Rupert failing to justify favouritism in the RSA Chase at Cheltenham for Paul Webber a few years ago. It was a race he should have won – clear on all known form - but he was never going and his courage got him as close as fifth. After a thorough health MOT, Rupert had a similar lung problem diagnosed but although he recovered he was never quite the same again.
So, Samcro and Might Bite, who is undergoing a breathing operation after two massively disappointing runs this season, both have pretty big question marks hanging over them, especially with the Festival just over nine weeks’ away.
NO NONSENSE COULD BE A STAR FOR ELSIE
Top trainers are largely conspicuous by their absence at an AW Kempton evening meeting at this time of the year. Some are putting their feet up in far warmer and sunnier climes. Lucky them!
However, David Elsworth was at the Sunbury venue again last week – sporting the familiar brown leather coat that probably went back to the days of Desert Orchid, whose statue was glowing, ghost-like, in the background under the floodlights by the parade ring.
“Elsie” was there to saddle the Jeff Smith-owned No Nonsense, a strapping and scopey son of Acclamation from the Lochsong family, who was taking on some useful and more experienced types in the 32Red Conditions Stakes, a Fast-Track Qualifier for AW Championships Finals Day.
Given a confident ride by Liam Keniry, No Nonsense used his huge stride to come from last to first and thus claim an automatic spot on Good Friday.
It was quite impressive and with wedges of notes being shared among various happy friends and hangers-on, Elsie had clearly delivered quite a touch, considering No Nonsense started the 12-1 outsider of seven.
“Some horses are backward and are slow. This fellow was backward and is fast. He’s a work in progress,” reported the training legend.