Weekend review - Bristol De Mai has speed to burn and looks perfect for JLT
9 February 2016
Racing UK presenter Angus McNae has gone through the replays of all the weekend action and gives you his verdict in some of the key races in the lead-up to the Cheltenham Festival next month. Watch the races and read his detailed analysis.
The most interesting and impressive winner of the weekend for me came in the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase at Sandown. Bristol De Mai’s six-length defeat of the useful As De Mee was a comfortable one.
He made all, jumped well and never looked in any danger. His win not only enhanced his claims of winning the JLT Novices’ Chase at The Festival, but it also sent a message to Gary Moore whose Ar Mad beat Bristol De Mai by 10 lengths in December at Sandown.
Surely Moore, who has reservations about his horse going left-handed, will have to take a chance now and take on Douvan in the Arkle Trophy with his horse?
As for Bristol De Mai, he has plenty of speed and I would not be keen on him taking up the engagement he holds in the RSA Chase for which he is 16-1. My preference would be the JLT, which look perfect for him with two and a half miles on decent ground being right up his street.
He is currently a best-priced 6-1 with Bet365 for that race, which is fair.
I do feel that he would be effective at two miles, given the speed he shows and his keen going nature and it is possible that he could be a Queen Mother Champion Chase horse in 2017. His trainer, Nigel Twiston-Davies, is in fine form at the moment, too.
The Listed Contenders Hurdle at Sandown featured the return of Peace And Co after he pulled far too hard in defeat on his seasonal reappearance at Cheltenham.
Once again he disappointed. He was far more settled than at Cheltenham and had every chance three out but he found little off the bridle and weakened out of contention. He either needed the run badly, or something is physically amiss. In the aftermath of this performance his trainer Nicky Henderson did not discount the possibility of a wind operation, and I would be surprised if this is not the route that they go.
Either way his participation at Cheltenahm has to be seriously in doubt.
Connetable was the only four-year old in the race, and was having just his second start for the Paul Nicholls team.
He holds an entry in the JCB Triumph Hurdle for which he is a best-priced 12-1 with Coral and Ladbrokes.
While he is clearly open to improvement, he will have to step forward to win the Triumph Hurdle, and what's more he has something to find with Gibralfaro who beat him comprehensively at Ascot. He is an exciting prospect, however.
Blaklion was driven right out to beat Definitely Red by eight lengths, and he gave the runner-up 7lbs.
Blacklion is a very strong stayer, he has won two chases this season and both were over three miles in soft or heavy ground.
He has two options at The Festival, the National Hunt Chase over four miles and the RSA Chase over three miles.
I think he would lack the necessary speed to win the RSA Chase, and is best at 14-1 with Skybet for the National Hunt Chase.
He will stay four miles, and has good form at the track which is so important.
He may not be good enough to best Black Hercules, but he has an excellent each-way chance.
Brian Ellison, the trainer of the Definitely Red, thinks an awful lot of his horse and he holds the same Cheltenham entries as Blaklion.
Watching the race again it was my strong impression that Definitely Red did not get the trip. He would remain of interest to me if dropped back in distance. His Cheltenham aspirations are now somewhat in tatters, however.
Mussleburgh staged its Trials meeting on Sunday and there were a couple of performances that took my eye.
Charbel made all to win the opener by 11 lengths. This was a Skybet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle trial and the winner holds an entry in that race.
He is clearly pretty useful and will surely improve when he gets to race over further and connections may roll the dice and run him in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle at The Festival.
If so he will come up against Yanworth, who thrashed him at Ascot and who after the defeat of Belshill at Leopardstown on Saturday is now a warm favorite for that race.
I like Charbel and it is possible that's he is going to sail under the radar for a while. We should not forget that he was only beaten six lengths into fourth in the Irish Champion Bumper at Leopardstown when trained by Thomas Mullins.
The other performance of note came from Tommy Silver, who despite being afforded an easy lead was nonetheless impressive in the way he travelled and jumped.
He won by 11 lengths eased down close home.
Let's not get carried away, though. Sir Chauvelun, his main rival, ran poorly and he was left with a simple task but he did what was asked stylishly.
Nicholls has entered him in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and the Triumph Hurdle but according to the trainer on Tuesday he goes straight for the Triumph.
The Triumph would probably be the best option for him, but it takes a leap of faith to see him figuring simply on the evidence of this.
Nonetheless there was a lot to like about how he went about his work, and I am sure Paul Nicholls has his eye on novice chasing with this horse next season.
No weekend review would be complete without a nod to what went on in Ireland.
Despite a few reversals of late the Willie Mullins team continues in fantastic form. The Irish trainer had six winners at Leopardstown and Naas over the weekend and had several that filled the places - evidence enough that he is still flying. It would surely have been seven if Valseur Lido and stood up at the last in the Irish Gold Cup.
He sent out Footpad, Allblack Des Places and Let’s Dance to be the first three home in the GAIN Spring Juvenile Hurdle, a Triumph Hurdle Trial, and in doing so he eclipsed Ivanovich Gorbachev, the Triumph Hurdle favourite.
This was a disappointing effort from the heavily-touted Ivanovich, and all may not have been well with him.
He would still be a player at Cheltenham if he could regain some of his previous sparkle.
This has left the Triumph Hurdle market in a real state of flux, and it is seemingly awaiting Mullins to nominate which horses he is going to run.
His first three home here would all be players if turning up. He has six entries in the race.
There has been much debate as to whether Valseur Lido would have won the Irish Gold Cup if he had remained on his feet. I think he would have done, even though Carlingford Lough finished off very strongly in a race that was attritional in nature.
What this race does is remind me of just how easily Djakadam beat Valseur Lido earlier this year and I still believe that despite his recent fall on Cheltenham Trials Day he is the one to beat in the Gold Cup.
If Bristol De Mai is to win the JLT Novices’ Chase he may have to cope with Outlander, who was a most impressive winner of the Grade One Flogas Novice Chase at Leopardstown.
This really was a most taking performance by another Mullins runner.
He took the scalps of Monksland and stable companion Pont Alexandre. Both are highly thought of, but were put in their place with ease.
Outlander holds in the Arkle Trophy, the JLT, the RSA and the National Hunt Chase and we eagerly await Mullins’s decision.