The Classic Picture

April 18th, 2016 | Marten's Current Racing Diary

The race for the Jump Trainers’ Championship is set to go down to the wire this Saturday at Sandown when Willie Mullins and Paul Nicholls try to chase a massive sum of prize money.

At the time of writing Paul Nicholls holds an advantage of £40,000 over Willie Mullins, but the title will surely be decided on Saturday with almost £500,000 at stake and both trainers with entries in every race.

This promises to be the highlight of a truly great season and it is only fitting that I will be writing a Spotlight Service to cover the day’s events.

Looking further ahead the Classic picture is not quite as clear as the betting would suggest.

Air Force Blue continues to be the subject of rave reports without having been asked to race yet this season. As I have said before there would be a slight doubt about him over the Rowley Mile on soft ground. Of his rivals, Emotionless did not impress in his public workout at the Craven meeting. By contrast Massaat and notably Buratino looked in great fettle but both are held on last season’s form by Air Force Blue.

The interesting one, and a colt for whom there was market support today, is Blue De Vega. I have written extensively about him in my Dark Horses Annual, which should be out this week. Trained by Michael O’Callaghan he will be ridden by Kieren Fallon, who has linked up with the trainer this season.

Of the others Stormy Antarctic impressed in the Craven Stakes, beating Foundation by three and a half lengths. The colt is an ideal partner for George Baker’s quiet style of riding, who shares the hopes of the trainer Ed Walker that he will prove just as effective on quicker ground.

As for the Derby, US Army Ranger owes his position at the head of the market far more to reputation than his achievement on the track. Aasheq, who ran him to three-quarters of a length when they met in a 1m 2f maiden at the Curragh, did nothing for the form when beaten 26 lengths by the winner’s stable-companion The Gurkha at Navan on Sunday. There were excuses for him, admittedly, but even so it was not an encouraging sign.

Midterm missed his opportunity to run at Newbury and will probably now be aimed at a trial on good ground. I would not expect The Gurkha or Foundation to stay the Derby trip but the aforementioned Blue De Vega is out of a Montjeu mare from a family of stayers, so if he runs well in the Guineas I would expect connections to consider the Derby.

Bye for now