Time to be getting along

January 19th, 2019 | Ian Carnaby's Racing News

Whilst I do not have major bets over jumps – nor anywhere else compared with a former life – Pink Gin was the start of a good mini-run, backed up by Keeper Hill and, although the price was short, Elusive Belle at Wincanton on Thursday.

Opinions will always vary on what constitutes value but Elusive Belle, having joined Nicky Henderson from Peter Fahey, probably needed merely to jump round to win. Of course, where leaving the ground is concerned, ‘merely’ is more of a sticking point with me than it is with many NH enthusiasts. She had run in three bumpers for Fahey, finishing second on the most recent of them at Gowran. We assume she had worked with good horses at Seven Barrows because they don’t have any other sort there. So, even if she hesitated at one or two obstacles, which she did, in receipt of 22lb from dual winner Thistle Do Nicely, she ‘merely’ had to jump round. She warmed to the task and there will not be an easier winner this winter, with 19 lengths the official margin, though it could have been thirty, had Sam Waley-Cohen so desired.

The point I’m making is that nothing bar the obstacles stood in her way. I couldn’t recall a novice hurdler receiving that much weight outside a handicap. She qualified for every allowance and Thistle Do Nicely had very little chance, though he gamely held the others for second.

Even money was available on course before the filly closed in to 4/5. The game has changed beyond recognition and I dare say 11/10 (the overnight tissue price) or possibly 5/4 was available on Thursday morning. In the build-up to Cheltenham, and maybe in at least two of the biggest races, people will be asked to accept shorter prices where there are far bigger dangers. I don’t know where Elusive Belle will end up – all I know is that she is quite highly regarded by Henderson, who used this modest Wincanton affair to get her off the mark. The only other thing to say is that the Waley-Cohens make hardy any mistakes and off the top of my head I can’t think of any. I sat next to Robert Waley-Cohen at a Grand National Weights lunch a few years ago and he was quietly spoken, thoughtful and very dignified There were no loose opinions and no bias, which is rare indeed at any racing gathering. There is no telling how far Elusive Belle can go and her next outing will be viewed with considerable interest; not that she will ever represent value in the same way again.

Writing the Weekend Card on a Wednesday morning is a pleasurable task but there are bound to be non-runners sometimes and value will often go out of the window. The Haydock Champion Hurdle Trial has seldom had much bearing on the big race itself – The New One farmed it against horses short of top class – and they again looked the proverbial motley crew, quite gifted but pushing it a bit at Grade 2 level, when I went through them in midweek. In the end I saw no reason why Silver Steak shouldn’t win it, given his consistent record in quality handicaps. But Haydock is Haydock and the latest threat concerns snow. Overnight he was only 13/8 in a small field and made less appeal, though I wouldn’t bet against him.

Kerry Lee has taken Shear Rock out of the two-mile handicap chase there, so we shall have to wait for another day. I’d love to see stable-companion Happy Diva win the big chase at Ascot because she chased the rejuvenated Aso all the way to the line at Cheltenham and is a game mare but seems to be flying rather high in this. Fifth or sixth with a view to next time would suit me.

All of which leaves us with the Holloway’s Handicap Hurdle and some of the worst value I’ve seen for quite a while with Thosedaysaregone quoted at 3/1. You really must go back and check his record in Ireland before he came over and won a modest race at Wetherby last week. It’s pretty grim and you have to believe in handicaps suiting horses which can’t win a maiden hurdle to give him a chance in a much hotter race today. Still it could happen, I suppose, and what we don’t really know is how long something like this has been plotted up. But on the balance of form he isn’t for me and the price is unrealistic.

The interesting one is Better Getalong, who is fairly treated with Ballymoy and wasn’t given a hard race when following him home at Haydock. That came after quite a long absence and I should think he is probably the only one in this capable of further improvement. My mother, a big Gordon W Richards fan, would have been all over him. Pity she’s gone, really, but it’s nice to see the son supporting the son. I’m funny that way.