Ben Linfoot picks his way through the new BHA handicap ratings following action at Cheltenham, featuring a few My Stable eyecatchers and plenty of points of note.
It’s been a few weeks since the last 'Weighed In' handicapping round-up thanks to a trip to Hong Kong, but the two-day meeting at Cheltenham over the weekend looks a good place to get back into the swing of things.
Frodon was the star of the show in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup and we’ll mull over whether he can now go on and do it in Grade One company, but it’s a horse further back in the field, Foxtail Hill, that fills one of the eye-catcher slots.
Lisnagar Oscar is another to add to the tracker following a hugely encouraging run on just his second start over hurdles, while the Betfair Hurdle and Jenkins’ handicap chase prospects also come under discussion…
My Stable Eyecatchers
FOXTAIL HILL >>>> Down 3lb to 135
A Caspian Caviar Gold Cup seventh is, on the face of it, nothing to shout about.
But a change of tactics did not play to FOXTAIL HILL’S strengths and he’s so well-treated now that he simply has to be on the radar for future Cheltenham handicaps.
Connections were rightly wary of a potential pace burn-up at the weekend with Frodon and Baron Alco going head-to-head from some way out.
As it panned out, though, very little got into things from off the pace and Foxtail Hill was at a positional disadvantage throughout. He was still on the coat tails of the leaders half a mile from home, but from there on in the battle was lost.
Being held up did not suit Foxtail Hill. This horse is at his best when he’s attacking his fences from the lead.
The good thing is he’s now dropped 12lb in six runs and off 135 he’s very well handicapped.
He’s won handicaps at Cheltenham off 133 and 140. He’s been second at the track off 140, too.
Those victories came over trips of 2m5f and two miles. Distance-wise he’s pretty versatile. What’s important to him is getting loose on the lead and the best way to take advantage of his new mark might be off a low weight in a good race.
With handicaps at Cheltenham coming up on New Year’s Day and Trials Day there will be opportunities for Foxtail Hill next month. It’s certainly not time to give up on him yet.
LISNAGER OSCAR >>>> Introduced at 133
Rebecca Curtis has previous when it comes to a novice hurdling son of Oscar.
It’s six years since she campaigned At Fishers Cross to a perfect six from six novice hurdling season, where he won a handicap off 131 before ending his year with Grade One victories at Cheltenham and Aintree.
He had stamina in abundance and it looks a forte of her LISNAGER OSCAR, as well, a horse who shaped with much encouragement on just his second start over hurdles behind Rockpoint at the weekend.
Sent off 8/1 for the Grade Two Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle over three miles, he travelled well and might’ve given Rockpoint something to think about were it not for a slight mistake at the last.
He stayed on well to ensure second up the hill, and he’s so unexposed both at the trip and after just two hurdling starts that he could develop into anything as the season progresses.
A mark of 133 brings handicaps into the equation before the spring festivals, while his performance is also a huge nod to Warren Greatrex’s Emitom (entered at Newbury on Wednesday), whom he couldn’t get off the bridle at Ffos Las.
Lisnager Oscar has a lovely pedigree, his dam being a full sister to Whisper, and his progress is well worth tracking for a trainer that knows what she’s doing with this type of horse.
Betfair possibles on show at Cheltenham
- Al Dancer >>>> Up 12lb to 141
- Summerville Boy >>>> Down 2lb to 153
When AL DANCER won the Catesby Handicap Hurdle by 11 lengths at Cheltenham on Friday both Nigel and Sam Twiston-Davies expressed concern that he’d won too far.
Winning by 11 lengths as you like at the home of jumps racing is never a good look with the handicappers in mind, but a 12lb rise to a mark of 141 looks entirely fair.
That’s an identical mark to the one Kalashnikov won the Betfair Hurdle off last season as a novice, although it’s a bit higher than the ones Twiston-Davies-trained horses have won the same race off recently (Ballyandy was 135 in 2017 and Splash Of Ginge was 134 three years prior to that).
Still, it looks the natural next target for Al Dancer, potentially ahead of a crack at a Grade One novice at the Cheltenham Festival, and if bookies were pricing up the Newbury race now he’d certainly be towards to the top of the market.
Tom George’s SUMMERVILLE BOY has a contrasting profile but he could well be another horse that might be aimed at the race following a few subdued runs at the start of his campaign.
Beaten 22 lengths by Buveur D’Air in the Fighting Fifth and then 23 lengths by Brain Power in the Unibet International Hurdle on Saturday, his campaign has started with a whimper.
However, he’s drifted in the betting ahead of both starts this term and it may well not be until after Christmas that we’ll see the best of this horse, as was the case last year.
Dropping a few pounds to 153 does bring high-quality handicaps into the mix, and given a big-field scenario with a strong gallop may suit this horse best it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see the Betfair Hurdle come into consideration.
Jenkins right on track for handicap gains
- Jenkins >>>> Remains on 145
JENKINS has shown a good level of form on his last two starts over fences and his third at Cheltenham in the Ryman Novices’ Chase on Saturday looked another stepping stone in his steeplechasing education.
He’s not been beaten far at all in a couple of good novice chases now and the time to back him will be when he lines up in a handicap chase with the blinkers refitted.
That particular headgear inspired two handicap victories over hurdles last season, at Kempton off 132 and at Ascot off 143, and it’s that sort of right-handed track that might see him in his best light once again.
Those hurdling wins came on soft ground, too, so that’s another factor that could help him get his head in front, but really it’s the fact that he looks slightly better over fences that makes him a horse to note for the coming weeks and months.
A mark of 145 makes him an interesting proposition when he’s unleashed in a handicap chase, and if the reintroduction of blinkers coincides with his debut in the sphere then all the better.
Big-Race Analysis: Caspian Caviar
There are fewer finer sights in racing than a classy horse destroying a solid field of handicappers off a big weight and FRODON certainly fits into that category now following his second Caspian Caviar Gold Cup success at Cheltenham.
Bryony Frost got the Paul Nicholls-trained horse into a great rhythm up front and the pair weren’t for catching, a fluent round of jumping contributing to this career-best success off a mark of 164.
A 5lb rise to 169 might well rule him out of winning handicaps from now on, you would think, but the big test for this horse now is to go and prove himself in top-level company.
He’s a bit like the equine Romelu Lukaku, looking like a world beater at a certain level but when he’s tried his luck at the very top he’s looked out of his depth.
In Grade One company his five efforts have resulted in form figures of 8-F-5-3-5, that third-placed finish behind Waiting Patiently (beaten 18 lengths) his best result at the highest grade.
Like Lukaku, he’s still only young, but he has to go and prove himself now. There will be opportunities for a 169 horse like him to go and win a Grade One before now and the end of the season and there’s little doubt that he looks better than ever this campaign.
Let’s hope it doesn’t bounce off his knee in an abject display the next time he tries his luck.
Cepage came there tanking under Charlie Deutsch and traded at 1.52 in-running on Betfair during the race, but he had no answer to the game winner up the hill following a mistake two from home.
He’s gone up 4lb to 147 but looks better than ever on this evidence, this his first start since April, and given soft ground holds no fears for him you’d think Venetia Williams can find him a suitable opportunity.
Guitar Pete drops 2lb to 135 but will effectively race off a 3lb lower mark next time as he was 1lb out of the handicap here.
He finished his race well but was done for pace and a first go at three miles could well unlock further improvement in him.
Baron Alco stays on 152 and, while pretty much guaranteed to give his running, he might well find life tough in this sort of race off his new mark for the remainder of the season, but Rather Be is an interesting one.
He looked beaten at an early stage but managed to keep going for fifth and it could be he was just taken off his feet a bit on ground that was perhaps a bit too lively.
A drop in the weights by a solitary pound is hardly making life easier for him but under a different set of circumstances it wouldn’t be a surprise if he showed, at some stage this season, just why he was sent off 7/2 favourite here.
Principal BHA Ratings alterations from the weekend December 14-15
- Aaron Lad >>>> Up 7lb to 140
- Al Dancer >>>> Up 12lb to 141
- Brain Power >>> Remains on 158
- Cepage >>>> Up 4lb to 147
- Cogry >>>> Up 3lb to 142
- Drovers Lane >>>> Up 5lb to 150
- Elixir De Nutz >>>> Up 2lb to 140
- Fact Of The Matter >>>> Up 5lb to 140
- Foxtail Hill >>>> Down 2lb to 135
- Frodon >>>> Up 5lb to 169
- Guitar Pete >>>> Down 2lb to 135
- Jenkins >>>> Remains on 145
- Keeper Hill >>>> Up 3lb to 139
- Le Breuil >>>> Up 1lb to 145
- Nelson River >>>> Introduced at 135
- Ozzie The Oscar >>>> Up 4lb to 157
- Rockpoint >>>> Up 11lb to 136
- Rolling Dylan >>>> Up 2lb to 142
- Sensulano >>>> Up 5lb to 134
- Singlefarmpayment >>>> Up 2lb to 148
- Summerville Boy >>>> Down 2lb to 153
- The Worlds End >>>> Up 3lb to 155
The Weighed In My Stable
- Born Survivor (added 6/11/2018)
- Go Conquer (added 6/11/2018 - 2nd 15/12/2018 - taken out 18/12/2018)
- Larry (added 6/11/2018) - (Fell, 19/11/2018)
- Smaoineamh Alainn (added 13/11/2018 - 6th 14/12/2018)
- Warriors Tale (added 13/11/2018 - WON 15/2 8/12/2018 - taken out 18/12/2018)
- Royal Vacation (added 20/11/2018 - 6th 8/12/2018 - taken out 18/12/2018)
- Doitforthevillage (added 20/11/2018 - 3rd 1/12/2018)
- Theatre Territory (added 20/11/2018 - 4th 14/12/2018)
- Bishops Road (added 27/11/2018 - UR 1/12/2018)
- Doux Pretender (added 27/11/2018 - 5th 15/12/2018)
- FOXTAIL HILL (added 18/12/2018)
- LISNAGER OSCAR (added 18/12/2018)
Quite a few of these have run recently and we’ll start with a positive as WARRIORS TALE prevailed at 15/2 in the Betway Grand Sefton Handicap Chase at Aintree on December 8.
He’s gone up 6lb for that win and it’s a case of job done so we’ll take him out of the list and have a bit of a clear out by getting rid of a few of the beaten horses as well.
Poor old Go Conquer did everything but win at Doncaster on Saturday, but as he’s gone back up 4lb to 151 despite defeat he’s taken out of the list along with Royal Vacation who put in a pretty lifeless display at Sandown.
Born Survivor has an entry at Ascot on Saturday, Larry is worth sticking with after his Plumpton fall and Smaoineamh Alainn is worth another chance when the ground turns soft.
Doitforthevillage shaped with enough encouragement at Newbury, Theatre Territory needs to drop in trip so let’s hope connections do just that, Bishops Road is handicapped to win something in the mud and Doux Pretender is staying in just in case he’s entered in a handicap.
Previous 'Weighed In' columns
- Weighed In: On the Road (27/11/2018)
- Weighed In: Royal appointment (20/11/2018)
- Weighed In: All in on Smeaoineamh (13/11/2018)
- Weighed In: Conquer-ing Aintree (6/11/2018)
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