Allaho must be taken on in Ryanair
L'Homme Presse has serious Gold Cup Claims
Back 50/151.00 Mares Hurdle chance before this weekend
Allaho freebies cast doubt on Ryanair credentials
Allaho bounced out from defeat in the King George at Kempton with a victory on Sunday 21st January at Thurles to win the Grade 2 Horse and Jockey Hotel Chase for the third time in four years. He won by an official distance of 13 lengths over stablemate's Statter and Appreciate It.
He set off and made his own gallop and was never seriously challenged by any of his four rivals. However, it was interesting to see the change of tactics for Appreciate It, who had made the running or at least forced the pace in his last four starts, and it seemed like it was a case of let's move out of the way so Allaho can run his race.
Allaho was never pressed for the lead, and Appreciate It was never put in the race until after the third last when his stablemate had put enough distance between himself and his rivals. The fact that Stattler - a winner of a National Hunt Chase over 3m6f - finished in second and could lay up with the gallop should rightly cast doubt on this piece of form.
This was another freebie for Allaho from the get-go, and confirmation of that comes in the comparative sectionals with the Grade 2 Mares Novice Chase.
Harmonya Maker was 6.19 seconds ahead of Allaho at the third last (24.76 lengths) and 6.34 seconds ahead of Allaho at the line (26.56 lengths). While it's tough to suggest that this confirms Allaho as not being the force of old, it tells us he has not had to run anywhere near the rating he must to be victorious come March.
I had Allaho running only to the high 150s and at a push-low 160s here. It's nothing quite like the level he had done in previous years (in the 170s).
Allaho was trimmed into 5/23.50 for the Ryanair on the back of this performance, which boggles the mind a little because he far from enhanced his claims, in my opinion. There's no doubt Allaho is at his best when able to dominate, but that won't be the case at Cheltenham this year, and nothing will give him as easy a time as he had here.
For now, I would tread very carefully with Allaho, and while the will and want is for him to be as good as he previously was, the evidence is not there to confirm that. The concluding thought is that he is a weak favourite for the Ryanair.
Harmonya Maker is reportedly heading for the Mares Chase at the Cheltenham Festival and is now 16/117.00. Despite the good comparative time with Allaho, this was only an average speed figure, and she needs to be more consistent for me to be jumping on her back for the festival.
High Class Hero won the Novice Hurdle on the Thurles card in a workmanlike fashion. He beat three rivals, two evenly matched on their meeting earlier in the year at Tipperary, and they are not progressing. This was okay; it hardly screamed of a strong Albert Bartlett favourite, for which he is now 7/18.00. I'd be astonished if something could not improve past High Class Hero, who is now an impressive 4-4 over hurdles. Still, this was a far cry away from the numbers he put up at Limerick in October, and perhaps he is hitting his ceiling.
L'Homme Presse holds strong Gold Cup claims after Lingfield victory
L'Homme Presse returned to the track to get the better of Protektorat in the Fleur De Lys at Lingfield on Sunday 21st January. The former Brown Advisory winner justified his odds-on price tag on return to the track after 391 days on the sidelines.
This display was ring-rusty but very hard to knock, and this was the best Protektorat we have seen this term. He dealt with that rival fairly comfortably at the line. He is a beautiful jumper, has a big long stride allowing him to gain plenty of ground at his obstacles, has a high cruising speed and stays this trip well.
This was run at a good clip. The 2m circuit sectionals saw Protektorat only 1.75 secs (seven lengths) off the pace of the 2m Lightning Novices Chase leader Matata at the seventh flight and L'Homme Presse only 1.03 (four lengths) off the same horse at the third last. They recorded a strong overall time inside the standard, and it was a performance to be very positive about.
He ticks many boxes for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, and his price cut from 20/121.00 to 9/110.00 on the Betfair Sportsbook was justified. I like him. With natural improvement from this first outing, he must be an each-way player.
JPR One - the Lightning Novices Chase winner at Lingfield - similarly clocked a useful time. He is an impeccable jumper but, unfortunately, will be up against more stern competition in this division when meeting the Irish in the Arkle at the Cheltenham Festival for which he is now 16/117.00. He is entitled to take his chance on this evidence, as is runner-up Matata 33/134.00.
There was due to be no column this week, given the lack of racing to get involved with, but the entries for Cheltenham Trials Day and Doncaster on Saturday were released, so here we are.
I have been waiting for an entry for Under Control - 50/151.00 on the Betfair Sportsbook - since she disappointed at Newbury on her seasonal return and has two this week. I expected one at Doncaster in the Mares Grade 2 Hurdle, but the other at Cheltenham for the Grade 2 International Hurdle is a welcome surprise.
Under Control was disappointing at Newbury on seasonal return but came there swinging on the bridle at the second last and traded at 2.47/5 only to stop suddenly a few strides after the hurdle. She shaped very threateningly and stopped far too quickly for that to be her true running.
She was frail in the market on this day. Still, it was a positive to see her entered specifically for the Gerry Feilden - a race Nicky Henderson has had excellent success in with Epatante, First Street, L'Ami Serge, Floressa and all of those runners went on to run at the Cheltenham Festival the same year.
Under Control, seriously impressed with how she went through her Sandown victory on her final start last season, taking the scalp of the subsequent Greatwood Hurdle winner, Iberico Lord, on deep ground. She tanked through that handicap victory at Sandown and looked like a smart mare.
She was given a positive update by Nicky Henderson after Newbury, saying, "Nico said two out she was definitely going to win and ten strides after the second last she wasn't even going to finish, so something clearly has gone wrong. She has never made a noise or shown any wind issues, but we have cauterised her palate which may, or may not, help."
She could take the same path as Epatante if declared at Doncaster - a race connections also used for Floressa before heading to the Mares Hurdle - and a bounce back to form could easily see her prominent in this Mares Hurdle market, which looks wide open. After all, a win at Newbury off of a rating of 137 would have seen her rated in the mid-140s, and that's not far off what it takes to win a Mares Hurdle in an average year.
A step up to 2 1/2 miles will likely see the daughter of Doctor Dino in a good light, given how she went through the deep ground at Sandown last year, and with that possible source of further improvement up her sleeve, the 50/151.00 price looks worth taking.
She could easily prove disappointing again in her next outing later this week, but the confidence her trainer has in her, which is highlighted by the entries he has given her despite her run at Newbury, is a hint that should be taken. She could be smart and is a wild price if she is as good as I think.