Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of the worlds major cities yesterday after Ascot and Taunton were abandoned, leaving racing at Haydock and Navan only. The Clarence House is to be moved into a bumper card at Cheltenham next weekend, although the lineup of horses is looking likely to be very different. We were left with a fairly quiet Saturday, but one that threw up a number of noteworthy performances nonetheless. ITV changed their schedule to feature Haydocks’ main races and in my eyes they delivered their best show yet. It didn’t feel rushed and the balance between debate, build up and analysis was spot on – not just constant race to race coverage that becomes frantic and uninteresting. The addition of Brough Scott was top class and the more he features the stronger ITV will be.
In Ireland, one-time Champion Hurdle winner Jezki showed he’s still got a run him when comfortably beating off Renneti and Tombstone in a handicap. He hardly set the world on fire in doing so but showed he’s far from spent as a horse and after such a lay off only positives can be taken. The Champion Hurdle is surely a step too far, but the 9YO could well be shaped for a tilt at the Stayers; despite the owner trying to spread his chips, with Uknowhatimeanharry and Yanworth his strongest hands. Another run before Cheltenham could be needed, provided no setbacks, and it would be brilliant to see him competitive in March.
2 05 NEON WOLF (H Fry) 4/5, Grade 2 Novice Hurdle, 1M7.5F, Soft
Money poured in for Harry Fry’s runner and the youngster didn’t disappoint, cruising to a 9L victory that doesn’t do the win justice. He was 10/3 overnight and went off odds-on favourite, showing the confidence behind him at the post. It was a simple ride from Noel Fehily; happy to take the race up four out, nothing could mount any sustained pressure in the home straight. Neon Wolf jumped each hurdle as it was a fence and already looks like a 3M chase would suit. The race might not be the biggest tell tell sign towards Cheltenham; but visually was one of the better runs from a novice hurdler this campaign. Quotes of 12/1 for the Supreme and 10/1 for the Neptune seem justified.
3 15 BRISTOL DE MAI (N Twiston-Davies) 4/1, Grade 2 H’Cap Chase, 3M, Soft
It was a big day for NTD as The New One and Bristol De Mai won the features at Haydock. In what was meant to be an open and competitive handicap, Bristol De Mai ran out an eased down 20L plus winner. Admittedly, the race did fall apart and only six of the fifteen made it home. But, he remained on the bridle as the field was falling apart behind and never looked in danger as he cruised clear before the last. He jumped well and handled the tight track no problem. Subsequently, the grey was cut into 20/25/1 for the Gold Cup – although I’m not sure you can read too much into this race, despite the open feel of the Gold Cup outside Tizzard’s runners. It’s easy to forget Bristol De Mai is only a 6YO and while he will struggle to make an impact in the Gold Cup this season, a tilt at the big one over the next couple of seasons could prove worthwhile. It was a shame to see Alary run so flat before being pulled up a couple out, again emphasising the messy feel and lack of depth to the form of the race.