We look at 19 horses from the past week!
Some exceptional performances
Just chance that Irish will head to the Stayer's Hurdle
Letsbeclearaboutit, that was impressive
We start at Cork on Sunday, November 5th, where Letsbeclearaboutit demolished a useful field by 10 lengths to land the Grade 3 Feel Like A Favourite Novice Chase contest.
The race has been won in recent years by some good names, notably Alpha Des Obeaux in 2016, and he recorded an RPR of 150, which is up there with the best of the winners.
He was backed off the boards like defeat was out of the question. Strange, considering his chase debut victory was in a plodding time, and he had beaten very little - although runner-up Largy Debut did boost the form by filling the same spot behind Gevrey in the Munster National next time.
Still, this performance was a world away from his debut run at Gowran. He travelled powerfully, jumped well, and was on the sharp end of a good gallop. The most impressive part was his finishing effort. He powered away from the third last - which saw Perceval Legallois come down when being asked to close - and he readily left a solid 140-rated chase debutant in Mighty Tom behind from the back of the final fence.
He was tough to pull up, running right through the line, having just been given a nudge down the neck after the final flight. It was a brilliant performance.
The form of this Novice Chase is only okay. The runner-up, Mighty Tom, was making his chase debut but was a solid high-130's hurdler and up there with his best achievement was a four-length sixth in this year's Galway Hurdle. The third, Senecia, had previously been unlucky not to beat the prolific Hercule Du Seuil at Punchestown, and in turn, that one has some solid form in both hurdles and chase codes for all he has done his winning during the summer months.
Still, RPRs suggest Senecia was 10lbs below her previous run at Punchestown. However, the distance between her and Lucid Dreams was similar to Punchestown, so I can't entirely agree with that rating.
Solness is not a 138-rated Chaser on any time figure or form line I have. Power Of Pause had previously won a very slowly run race at Listowel - the final circuit time entirely dwarfed by the Kerry National. Still, those horses were beaten out of sight here.
When we turn to the clock, it's hard to get an accurate comparison with only two chase races on the card. However, his supporters can take solace from the fact that he was around 29 lengths quicker than both hurdle races run over the same distance despite jumping two more obstacles and the chase track being on the outer of the hurdles.
The comparative chase race was the Cork Grand National, in which Letsbeclearaboutit ran an excellent final comparative circuit (as would be expected). He reached the third last on the final circuit 28 lengths before National winner Sir Bob (led at this point) and crossed the line 36 lengths ahead.
Overall, it is an outstanding performance worthy of a Grade 1 company and the first of its kind this season.
The winner finished a five-length fourth in the Albert Bartlett last year when weak at the finish, and I see no reason why they would go back up to 3m with him.
He has plenty of gears and the speed to be competitive in a Turner's Novice Chase, for which he is 12/113.00 and must be a leading contender for that contest based on this evidence and his RPR of 150.
Action round up
On Sunday, November 5th, Burdett Road got people's tongues wagging after his stylish win on his hurdle debut at Huntingdon in the Juvenile Hurdle. He was keen for much of the race and failed to settle but still put the race to bed like a useful horse.
The form looks woeful at this stage.
On flat ratings, he was upwards of 15 pounds clear of anything in the contest and as clear as 42 with one rival. The time was only as good as the Claiming Hurdle winner, but he will surely go on to good things. Still, his 20/121.00 for the Triumph Hurdle doesn't appeal on the back of this performance. He needs to learn to settle.
Iroko looked good - in that field
Iroko won hard-held on November 7th at Warwick on his chase debut. He looked careful and inexperienced at one or two but warmed into the race and ultimately ran out a convincing winner. The 2023 Martin Pipe winner has the scope to make into a very useful chaser this season, but it's worth keeping the lid on it with this bare form for now.
Stage Star picked up this race last year before winning the Turners. That horse completely contrasted with Paul Nicholls's entry this year in the form of British debutant Golden Son. Golden Son ran well for a long way on the lead, but the 556-day absence got to him in the end, and he blew up at the finish, likely flattering the winner to some degree.
Golden Son got a British rating of 142, which looks very high considering his loftiest French RPR was 139, and that came in defeat over hurdles. At the same time, he was trounced on his Chase debut, beaten 12 lengths by a five-year-old Mare, who won the softest French Grade 1 next time and has failed to win again since in six attempts.
Meanwhile, the Grade 2 hurdle Golden Son won - which the commentator made clear in the closing stages - has seen the runner-up beaten on their next eight outings. It's worth treating this form with caution, particularly given the Nicholls horse needed the outing.
It was a good start from Iroko, and he is an excellent prospect. Still, his new 12/113.00 for the Turners Chase looks exceptionally short on this evidence, while 10/111.00 for the Brown Advisory is of no interest, having looked like a non-stayer over the trip last term at Aintree.
One to watch
At Carlisle on November 5th, the impressive bumper winner for Jonjo O'Neil, Mister Meggit, showed all the right signs of a very good horse.
He travelled powerfully in the deep ground, opened up and sprinted away from his admittedly weak opposition. Still, the numbers look very good, and he is a brilliant prospect for the season on this limited evidence. There's no Champion Bumper market currently, but you'd expect him in the 25/126.00 or 33/134.00 range, which would be tempting.
At Fairyhouse on November 7th, Imagine won the 2m Beginners Chase in good style, pushed out at the finish from the rallying Inothewayurthinkin. Last year's Martin Pipe fifth could be set for another crack at a Festival handicap this year, as could Path D'oroux, who was 36 lengths back in sixth but was never even put into the race, and his jockey did his utmost to act like he was riding in a race.
This race is worth noting as it could produce plenty of handicap winners.
The disappointment was Sandor Clegane - third in the Albert Bartlett - jumped slightly left but was running over a trip well shy of what he wants and will likely improve throughout the year as he did last term. His 20/121.00 price tag for the Brown Advisory looks big.
An Tobar is boringly slow at Fairyhouse
An Tobar made his eagerly anticipated hurdle debut at Fairyhouse on November 7th and won easily under minimal pressure. Rachel Blackmore sat in third as the field split in two after the first flight, with those looking for handicap marks sitting well off an already dawdling pace. Only three were willing to race that day; however, mid-way down the back, the pace slowed even further, with all three doing nothing more than a trot.
Using the three-year-old hurdle as a side-by-side comparison shows the extent of how slow An Tobar's race went while the overall time saw Henry De Bromhead's runner cross the line 43 lengths slower. Still, it's unwise to suggest he is not better than this, having only got racing from three out to the finish, but we learned very little other than he is alive and well.
You would have to be mental to touch his 25/126.00 price for the Supreme Novice Hurdle on the back of this performance alone. There is no form here or in his Point to Point to suggest he will win a March race and no time figure. So, for now, he needs to be watched.
At Chepstow on November 8th, Colonel Harry won his Novice Chase debut, beating three rivals - well, two - if you want to count those who were there to win a race. He jumped well in the main and used his experience from two runs in Point to Points to a good advantage but did have to be rousted along to pick up Our Of Office, who was tenderly handled between the final two flights.
He ground it out well but doesn't look as though he will prove to be one of the top Novices over 2m, given the speed he lacks from take-off to landing. I look forward to seeing him up in distance. Tahmuras was a big disappointment there.
De Vassy is the right Mares Chase favourite for now
Allegorie De Vassy won the Mares Chase at Clonmel on Thursday, November 9th, in commanding fashion over old adversary Instit. She was well-backed to make a winning seasonal debut, but it was never straightforward. Her jumping out to the right is so pronounced it's hard to warm to price for the Mares Chase for which she is now 7/24.50 favourite.
Still, re-wind to last year's running when second to the excellent Impervious - who is not sure to make it back this season - and she wasn't as exaggerated. Paul Townend is aware of this fact and will take precautions such as keeping her tucked away on the rail will be taken again. She is the right market leader.
The disappointment of the race to a certain degree was last year's Grand Annual winner, Maskada, who could only manage fourth. However, I thought she was given a straightforward time of things, almost like a handicapping ride, so I was amazed to see her owner's tweet to say, "That confirms her best trip is 2m" and "We will stick to 2m with her".
That baffles me as I thought it was a satisfactory run with improvement, almost a given, having looked to be carrying condition. On that evidence, her 25/126.00 for the Mares Chase looks extremely tempting if not for the comments from the owner outfit.
On the same Clonmel card, on November 9th, Allaho made a successful reappearance on the track, and I hoped to do a whole piece on his performance. However, there was little to note. His first circuit was almost identical to his second, which meant he lobbed around at his leisure in an overall slower time than Allegorie De Vassy. Still, there's no knocking the performance here, and he is sure to improve for the first outing.
He is now a fair 10/34.33 for the Ryanair Chase - although, don't rule out the possibility of going up in a trip to the Gold Cup 25/126.00.
On Friday, November 10th, at Down Royal, Brighterdaysahead made it 2-2 over hurdles with an authoritative victory despite jumping poorly. We touched on her in week one, suggesting she probably didn't want to make her own running and that it was a very slow time when winning on debut at Thurles.
The quicker pace here forced her off the bridle early and into some jumping errors, but she ground out victory well over a solid yardstick in Banntown Girl - rated 127. She is a sizeable mare, and there's a good chance she will learn plenty from this run.
She is improving with each outing and looks like a solid contender for the Mares Novice Hurdle for which she is 4/15.00. However, we will likely see the best of her up in trip - I have her running to 133 here, and 140 is where you need to be running to in March.
Turners division hotting up with Found A Fifty added to the list
I was a big fan of Found A Fifty last season over hurdles, but he took a good step forward for the switch to fences on November 10th at Down Royal despite six fences being omitted. The way he jumped when needed was more than satisfactory. Still, anyone who tells you the fences being omitted was a hindrance is talking nonsense, particularly for one well-positioned on the front end of the pace.
Still, he hit the line very hard here, and it was in line with his excellent Grade 2 second to Corbetts Cross at Naas in February. He is well worth keeping an eye on, particularly given the runner-up, Colonel Mustard, is a good yardstick who recorded an RPR of 137 when tried over fences last year behind El Fabiolo.
The roll of honour for this race is illustrious. Mighty Potter, Lifetime Ambition, Envoi Allen, Samcord, and Delta Work all were successful here. He is now 20/121.00 for the Turners Chase, which looks big. However, the concern would be that he boiled over at Aintree and ran no race. That must be in the back of the mind concerning Cheltenham.
Firefox won well in a bumper on November 10th at Down Royal but had a straightforward task, and his return to hurdles is eagerly awaited.
Albert Bartlett winner Stay Away Fay made an excellent start over fences to win the Silver Bowl Novices Chase at Exeter on November 10th. He jumped fluently for a Chase debutant, was fast over his fences, and was clever when needed. He showed great tenacity, having looked to be faltering for fitness when talking a big blow entering the home straight, but he stayed on resolutely at the death to get back up on the line.
He is now 10/111.00 for the Brown Advisory at Cheltenham, which will surely be his ultimate target. I'd be more keen on the 14/115.00 for the National Hunt Chase, but he is unlikely to go that route, considering his class and the fact that he was a Grade 1 winner at the festival last year.
The bare form needs work, but I expect an even better performance next time. I'd be in no rush to grab the 10/111.00.
Giovinco won at odds of 5/61.84 at Aintree on November 11th over Universal Folly, who was one pound out of the handicap. Lucinda Russell's Novice was winning this race off of a rating of 143. The race saw nine fences omitted, which is laughable but another conversation entirely. He was slow at the first, reached for the second, but improved as the race continued. He ultimately won with plenty in hand and was idling once hitting the front, but this race turned into a sprint, having plodded around the course for two circuits.
Those wise odds compilers at Betfair didn't move his Brown Advisory price as some others cut him into 12/113.00, but he is now as big as 20/121.00 with some firms. He is a very good horse but has looked so against inferior opposition. It will be interesting to see how he fairs when tackling something of note, as his profile lacks any depth in form thus far.
On November 11th at Down Royal, Down Memory Lane won in good style, easing clear at odds of 2/71.29. The opposition was poor, but he travelled powerfully and quickened up from the back of the last under minimal pressure to win on the bridle. He looks very smart indeed.
The pace of the race was substandard. He recorded the slowest time of all three 2m hurdle races on the card by some distance, so it's unwise again to get overindulged by this performance.
To put it into perspective, the three-year-old hurdle ran a circuit time of 3.58.53 and Down Memory Lane 4.09.26, with the latter some 40 lengths slower. However, I wouldn't dismiss him on this performance given the ease, but I want to see him in a well-run race. He is 25/126.00 for the Supreme Novice Hurdle.
Johnnywho is a high-class novice
On Sunday, November 5th, Carlisle saw Jonjo O'Neil saddle Johnnywho a winner for our daily column in the opening Novices' Hurdle.
The JP McManus-owned six-year-old had yet to be seen since dotting up in a bumper in impressive style at Taunton in good time but took to hurdles like a promising Point-to-Point winner should. He travelled powerfully, jumped a little big at a few and cruised up to the heels of the two leaders who had gone hammer and tong from the outset.
He stalked his rivals down to the last and swung on the bridle. A blunder at the final flight saw him shaken up, but he was back on the bridle instantly, and he visually left a deep impression.
He was always well placed, but that is now three starts where he has won easily. He was value for much more than the winning margin.
Talking of form, he received weight from both the runner-up and third. The second, Moon D'Orange, had been behind Deep Cave, Lot Of Joy and Firm Footings when fourth at Leopardstown last Christmas, and this was probably up there with his best run. His rating of 125 looks worth taking with a pinch of salt.
Whistle Stop Tour saddled a seven-pound penalty for an easy 18-length Hexham win, while the runner-up and stablemate from his Point to Point victory bolted up at Ayr last week. He looks like a solid mid-120s performer.
Johhnywho has probably run to the high 120s, which would concur with his RPR rating (129 since changed to 127).
Heading to the clock, despite winning on the bridle, he clocked the fastest hurdle circuit time for the day and was quicker than all of those races from three out to the finish. It was an excellent performance.
I feel awful for writing this. However, my concerns lay with the stable rather than Johnnywho's ability. Jonjo O'Neil has had excellent success, and I wish him more, but it's a nagging doubt and likely a contributor to his 16/117.00 price for the Ballymore.
If he were with Nicky Henderson, you'd look at single-figure odds. That may be the angle.
I expect him to rate in the 140s before long, and perhaps the Betfair Hurdle is on the agenda. I would favour him at this stage over Captain Teague of the British should they meet in the Challow at Newbury, but there's a lot to see before then, and there would be 30 in Ireland who would have done the same to that Carlisle field.
However, he remains one to be extremely positive about. I like him.
Classy Willimount has stacks of speed
Nicky Henderson's five-year-old Willmount impressed with a strong victory at Newbury on November 9th, winning his hurdle debut by 13 lengths over Beny Nahar Road. He jumped very nicely and was impressive on the eye. He is now 14/115.00 for the Supreme Novice Hurdle.
He recorded a RPR of 128, the second highest in the race history, one pound below Claimantakinforgan in 2017. He won as he liked, so it's unwise to hold him back with the bare form of this race.
The opposition looked a little thin on the ground, as his SP price of 1/31.33 suggests. The runner-up had been beaten ten lengths at Wincanton by Emma Lavelle's Classic King and recorded a 98 RPR on debut, while the fourth, although holding experience from France, jumped poorly.
The race recorded no more than an average circuit time, as seen below.
Brentford Hope = 3.52.85
Willmount = 3.55.86
Manimol = 3.56.19
However, his four-out-to-finish time was speedy, suggesting they had gone very slow during the early part of the race and sprinted at the finish and from three out to the line, he was swift indeed. Given he was always well positioned, having jumped to the front down the back straight, it's unwise to get carried away with the performance.
Brentford Hope = 1.02.65
Willmount = 53.47
Manimol = 1.00.35
You'll remember the likes of Jet Powered, who came home in around 57 seconds, and Dusart, who came home in 53.78 in his Novice Hurdle debut, but both were unable to mix it at the top level, albeit in some admitting circumstances at the time.
Still, it's a performance to look on very positively for now, and he rates an exciting prospect, but let's see what he can do in a truly run race, although I firmly expect him to be able to adapt to it no with no issues.
Gerri Colombe well worth an upgrade
Gerri Colombe won his first open Grade 1 by taking the scalp of Envoi Allen in the Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal on November 11th. This was the performance many of us had been hoping to see. He was all out at the finish, having battled back on the run-in to secure the perfect start on his Gold Cup campaign, for which he is now 5/16.00 from 6/17.00.
How this race was run would have in no way suited Gerri Colombe, with the race turned into a sprint from three out - typical of this contest each year. While Conflated jumped across the winner at the second last and forced him to switch inside, he did tremendously well to get up on the line.
Envoi Allen has an excellent Down Royal record, winning on all four previous outings, while the race turning into a dash would have suited the former Ballymore winner. Envoi Allen has now run over 3m at Down Royal twice - winning this race in a similar style last year, with the race turning into a sprint.
I don't think Envoi Allen stays a truly run 3m, but I doubt that will deter connections from attempting the Gold Cup this year. Still, it's Gerri Colombe who is the one to take from the race and must be a real contender for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, but he is unlikely to be shorter than his current price unless Galopin Des Champs puts in a below-par reappearance run.
I strongly fancy his chances in March, but it's an on-the-day bet now.
The Stayers' Hurdle is currently 6/17.00 the field headed by Teahupoo, who is respected and Theleme, who won again on Saturday. Still, it's wise to remember the horse the French star beat was also beaten a similar distance in September by Goa Lil. At the same time, it was disappointing that Teahupoo couldn't get the job done last year when the race lacked depth or quality.
This column bagged the winner of last year's Stayers' Hurdle in the form of the unfavoured Sire Du Berlais at 100/1101.00 with an SP of 33/134.00. The runner-up, Dashel Drasher, was also unfavoured and went off at 40/141.00, while only three lengths separated the first five.
The winner and runner-up will be 11 and 12 heading the festival this year, and the latter has already disappointed at Wetherby, so the division needs new blood.
At the time of writing, the top of this market is hardly appealing, so it might be worth chancing Teahupoo's stablemate/owner mate in Irish Point - 14/115.00 on the Betfair Sportsbook.
He had a positive start to the season last year - finishing a head behind Supreme Novice Hurdle winner Marine Nationale in the Royal Bond before chasing home Ballymore third Champ Kiely in the Lalor's Of Naas which in turn had the Albert Bartlett runner-up back in sixth.
All those mentioned are going chasing, as well as Il Etait Temps, Inthepocket and Facile Vega - the horses he mixed it with when below par at the Dublin Racing Festival.
He improved throughout the season last term and ended the year with an excellent victory at Aintree in the 2m4f Mersey Novice Hurdle, in which he was never stronger than at the finish.
That race clocked a powerful time figure and was better at every stage than the following Grade 1 Liverpool Hurdle won by Sire Du Berlais, which gives us a rare opportunity to have a line into the Stayers Hurdle division.
That performance suggested that he could be even better at three miles, and while it's unwise to go gun-ho with the end-of-the-season Aintree from, previous winners have gone down the Stayer's Hurdle route.
In an interview, owner Rob Acheson name-checked races like the Lismullen Hurdle, Hattons Grace and the 3m Xmas Hurdle at Leopardstown.
The Lismullen Hurdle has featured the Stayer's Hurdle winner in the past two years. Home By The Lee won that race last year, pushing him to the top of the Stayers' Hurdle market throughout the season, with Sire Du Berlais in second.
While I am fully aware that his connections have a challenger in this race at the top of the market, and they could easily skip Cheltenham for Aintree, it's a risk I am willing to take, given he would be half the price if it were openly said Cheltenham was the aim.
I mentioned in week one I had a horse in mind for this race, and I was delighted with his seasonal return over 2m when fending off the race-fit Magical Zoe, giving her 13 pounds on Friday, 10th November. The 2m4f Lismullen Hurdle may come too quickly, but he will tackle three miles at Christmas.
Currently 14/115.00, and with the possibility of further improvement in his second season over hurdles and 3m, it's easy to see him developing into a strong staying candidate for this division.
I am not concerned about Teahupoo and Irish Point being owned by the same trainer. Gordon Elliott is okay with rolling a few dice at these events, and owners may be forced into heading this way should he have the start to the season that I think he will.
He is also an excellent substitute should Teahupoo run badly in the Hatton's Grace or even pick up a knock.
After all, this is a Grade 1, and to have the opportunity to have two cracks at it is a positive, not a negative.
Read Daryl's week one Cheltenham Festival Focus here.