Betfair Ambassador Paul Nicholls gives his thoughts on Tidal Bay's chances in today's Lexus Chase, but he still wonders why his veteran chaser still has a Timeform squiggle!
I am struggling to get my head around Timeform still having a squiggle by Tidal Bay's rating.
Yes, I appreciate that he has been an unreliable character in the past on occasions, even though his CV before he came to us certainly wasn't too shoddy. It boasted a novice hurdle second at the Festival, a 13 length Arkle win, a Tingle Creek second to Master Minded, a Cleeve Hurdle and a Betfair Chase second to Imperial Commander at Haydock.
In many respects, the reputation he has reminds me of the way our 2009 Lexus winner What A Friend is viewed in certain corners.
Of course, both horses have their own obvious quirks and style of running, and they always will have.
But I have not been overly-disappointed by Tidal Bay in any of his seven starts for me - his poorest effort for me was his last of five in the Betfair Denman Chase at Newbury, but he lost any chance with a bad blunder there, and he was also hampered when below par behind Big Buck's at Aintree too - and I have been thrilled by his last three runs.
I love training these older horses, finding what makes them tick and then trying to improve them and keep them on their game.
And I think you probably have to say that he has improved too, following on from a 15 length win in the bet365 with a Grade 2 hurdle win on his reappearance, and then failing by just over three lengths to give current Gold Cup favourite Bob's Worth 6lb in the Hennessy, with 5 lengths back to Sun Alliance runner-up First Lieutenant.
I have said it before. If he were three or four years younger, then he would be up there near the head of the Gold Cup market, not at a 26.025/1+ chance.
I just wonder whether Timeform think jumps horses are 'fairer game' than Flat horses!
I am sure that there are examples but I wonder if they can tell me the last Flat horse with Tidal Bay's top-class credentials to have the squiggle - and maintain it in the face of a string of performances that culminated in a career-best last time. And that is according to their own figures.
At least, I see they have him top-rated for the Lexus. And I really can see Tidal Bay giving Flemenstar, Sir Des Champs and Hidden Cyclone plenty to think about at Leopardstown.
There are reasons why Tidal Bay appears back to his best, and more, as an 11yo.
We have mixed up and changed his routine, so that he doesn't work up the hill for example, sorted out his breathing and addressed some bleeding issues - we basically gave him a full MOT - and I am really looking forward to seeing what he can do back in Grade 1 company over fences.
It could be that Ireland's up-and-comers prove too quick for him here providing they stay - and Flemenstar has looked very impressive over 2m4f - but I just think this race could be set up for a closer like Tidal Bay. And the more it rains, the better for him.
And if Timeform do tip the winner of the Lexus, I just wonder what those stubborn souls will do!!