It’s All Kicking Off …

April 18th, 2023 | Marten's Current Racing Diary

Hi there!

Well no sooner have we had three days at Aintree, culminating in Saturday’s Grand National, than the Craven meeting starts at Newmarket today and it’s then just three weeks before we’re back there for the Guineas meeting.

It’s a tremendously exciting time of year, especially for those of you who share my passion for unexposed or unraced horses. More about that later, but first a few observations on the events that took place at Aintree last week.

I am not going to get involved with the politics of the protest. All I will say is that the Grand National is not representative and does not accurately reflect the essence and beating heart of jump racing in this country, so it’s unfortunate that the spectacle is viewed by a staggering 5 to 6 million people worldwide – whatever the outcome.

As for the race itself, I could not have got it more wrong. I was hoping the ground would ride softer, as it promised to on Friday, but The Big Breakaway departed at the second and Mr Incredible’s saddle appeared to slip after the Canal Turn on the second circuit. Of the others Mister Coffey ran a blinder but was always going to struggle to get home after such a prominent showing, while Noble Yeats stayed on strongly late in the day and may, quite possibly, now be saving something for himself.

Looking to events earlier in the week, I was left wondering after the Aintree Bowl how Shishkin would have got on in the Gold Cup?

I was one of the handful who made out a strong case for him in the big one at Cheltenham on the grounds of his style of racing and the stamina in his pedigree – his two half-brothers won over 3m or more and his dam won three point-to-points and is a half-sister to a high-class hurdle winner.

I would not discourage anyone from having a modest interest at 16’1 for next year’s Gold Cup as he will be a 10-year-old by then and it may be his only chance to run in the race. I would fancy him more for the Gold Cup than the King George at Kempton.

I may also be one of the few that thinks Constitution Hill did not have that much left at the end of the Aintree Hurdle. There is predominantly 2m 4f blood in his pedigree but for a few strides between the last two I thought he could be in trouble, although his rider was confident he had more to give had it been required.

We do, of course, have the line of form which shows Zanahiyr finished almost 10 lengths closer at Aintree than he had at Cheltenham. Time may show me to be wrong, but I would say on the evidence to hand that if Constitution Hill were to turn to chasing he would struggle to stay the Gold Cup trip and may even have problems over two and a half miles.

Furthermore, given the relative strength of the staying chasing division compared with the hurdlers he should find life easier over the smaller obstacles, where he could try to emulate the achievements of the triple-Champion Hurdle winners that have gone before. It sounds as if Nicky Henderson favours this route, but the owner appears to have more ambitious intentions.

Just keep an eye on Starzov , who ran in the race won by West Balboa on Saturday. Philip Rothwell’s six-year-old was doing steady late work, having lost his place from the home turn and his astute handler may be able to land a handicap with him at one of the forthcoming Irish festivals. He has more to offer.

Now looking ahead, as I’m sure you are aware, in the absence of a Dark Horses Annual I will be publishing my Premier List and Sleeper qualifiers, which includes handicap projects and unraced horses, in this week’s Weekend Card.

Rebecca tells me that a number of you have asked about Dan Briden’s Two-Year-Old Guide.

Sadly due to time constraints we were unable to publish it this year and Dan tells us that the new publishers have not yet announced a release date, but I am delighted to report that he will be writing regularly for us – at least once a month and starting this week – in the Weekend Card with his news direct from trainers about their two-year-olds.

These are exciting times and the best way to keep in regular touch with my horses of interest is through the Weekend Card. Please refer to our online shop for details of a substantial saving.

I’ll be back here again soon.

Take care and bye for now …