The Winter Bulletin Book Beckons

November 29th, 2015 | Marten's Current Racing Diary

I readily concede that I found it a struggle to write the Online Preview for Hennessy day. In the end, with almost 4,000 words completed, I felt that I would be lucky to make my clients a profit but, thankfully, the hours of work paid off in the end.

I had taken a great liking last season to Thistlecrack, mainly due to the fact he had shown such good form over two miles despite having a very stamina-endowed pedigree. As a son of Kayf Tara out of a mare by Ardross, Thistlecrack had done really well to win a bumper and novice hurdles over the minimum trip, especially as two of those three victories were around the tight turns of Wincanton, so when he stepped up in distance last spring I was keen to be with him.

He was 14lb wrong with Cole Harden and 17lb wrong with Whisper on the terms of yesterday’s Long Distance Hurdle, and Colin Tizzard warned beforehand that the race would be needed, but he was always travelling well and stayed on from the last to beat Deputy Dan, who I expected to outrun his odds, and Cole Harden, who stayed on again towards the finish.

Thistlecrack is probably still a little underrated but, at this stage, I expect Cole Harden to again prove the one to beat in March.

In the end I went for Smad Place and The Young Master in the Hennessy, with Theatre Guide and First Lieutenant my best outsiders.

It was a shame to see The Young Master unseat Sam Waley-Cohen at the first, but Smad Place made up for it with a surprisingly emphatic success. I don’t think many analysts beforehand would have expected a horse to win what looked a very competitive renewal of this great race by 12 lengths, but Smad Place has always had a touch of class and he has to enter the Gold Cup picture after this. Rated 155, I expect his mark to rise by about 15lb to 170 and that would put him within 2lb of Coneygree and just 1lb behind Vautour.

Smad Place was beaten 27 lengths by Coneygree last season, but Alan King says he was never right after running in the Hennessy on his seasonal debut. Third to Big Buck’s and Solwhit in successive World Hurdles, and a close second in the 2014 RSA Chase, Smad Place has always had a touch of class. The concern regarding Cheltenham is that the grey evidently enjoyed making the running on Saturday – something that Coneygree may have something to say about next March.

On Sunday at Fairyhouse it was good to see Rashaan win for low-profile trainer Colin Kidd. I was actually against the odds-on favourite Missy Tata here – I took the view that she had a touch of temperament – but this was still a very good effort from the winner under his penalty. He will next run at Leopardstown over Christmas and may be one to keep in mind for the Triumph Hurdle.

The money told us that Long Dog was expected to beat stable-companion Bachasson in the Royal Bond Hurdle, although in the end there was not much in it. The winner probably prevailed because he is the better stayer of the two, so expect to see him stepped up in trip next time out.

There was alarming pre-race market weakness in Arctic Fire before the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle, but those who stepped in for some of the even-money that was briefly available never really had a moment’s worry. The six-year-old was entitled to win this on figures and the concerns beforehand were probably due to the 2m 4f trip in what was pretty testing ground.

The next fortnight is all about getting my Winter Bulletin Book written. It goes to press in a fortnight’s time and will be packed with news for the second half of the season, including my ante-post thoughts for Cheltenham and an interview with one of the country’s up-and-coming young trainers.

Bye for now