Course Records Tumble …
February 14th, 2023 | Marten's Current Racing Diary
I can’t believe that writing now, just a month before Cheltenham, I have found myself focusing on the low-grade all-weather racing in an effort to seek out something interesting to pass on to my subscribers.
I actually quite enjoy trying to unearth a few ‘plots’ on the all-weather during the first couple of months of the year – the AW feature in the Weekend Card has made a good profit – but this extraordinary spell of dry weather has given rise to small fields and jump cards more akin to the heights of summer than the months of midwinter.
On ground that was good to firm in places at Newbury on Saturday there were four course-record times. I am indebted to Chris Cook in his piece in Monday’s Racing Post, who noted that Zanza beat the then reigning Gold Cup winner Long Run’s time set 11 years ago in the Denman Chase by eight seconds.
The long-range weather forecast suggests there may be wetter conditions towards the end of the month, with the possibility of a drop in temperature leading up to Cheltenham, but we need some serious rain if we’re to see more traditional jump racing for the time of year.
Many of the soft-ground specialists who are primed and ready to run are at home confined to their boxes while the good ground horses are being prepared for a spring campaign.
At least we managed to see a touch of class in Ireland, where Blazing Khal returned from a 14-month absence to beat Meet And Greet by three lengths in the Grade 2 Boyne Hurdle at Navan.
Charles Byrnes has always rated the son of Kalanisi highly and despite market weakness, unusually for a winner from this yard, he had gone to post fancied to run well.
The runner-up is rated 150, so taking into account the terms of the race Blazing Khal ran to a mark in the high 150s, possibly even 160, which leaves him within a pound or two of Teahupoo, rated 163, and the 161-rated Paisley Park.
Blazing Khal beat the useful Gelino Bello over three miles at Cheltenham on his final start last season and he is entitled to come on appreciably for Sunday’s race.
I am not sure that he should be backed for the Stayers’ Hurdle at 2/1 with a run, 3/1 elsewhere, but his handler is one of Ireland’s best trainers with few peers at getting one ready for the day. I can envisage momentum building up behind him as the race approaches.
It seems strange not working on the Dark Horses Annual for the forthcoming Flat campaign but I have begun writing my pieces for the Bulletin Book, which include the Champion Hurdle, Gold Cup, Supreme, Triumph and the handicaps.
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Bye for now