January 1st, 2016 | Ian Carnaby's Racing News
There were some fine performances at Cheltenham on Friday, none better than Village Vic’s all-the-way victory in the big handicap chase. Raised 8lb for a similar effort at the last meeting, he again jumped particularly well, apart from an error at the second, and ran up the hill with great gusto. Clearly he has come right back to form, fulfilling all the potential Philip Hobbs and Richard Johnson thought he had as a novice hurdler. There should be a good handicap in Venetia Williams’ Tenor Nivernais, third and second to him the last twice, although the handicapper raises horses that are beaten and that will happen again.
Seeyouatmidnight also ran the opposition ragged in the old Dipper Novices’ Chase and he would have a chance in any company over three miles in testing ground. Unfortunately for him, conditions are seldom like that at the festival so the RSA Chase may not be as logical a target as it seems at present bur he is certainly a horse of considerable ability.
It was very hard work for horses and jockeys and I wouldn’t necessarily mark down Cole Harden or Top Notch on their third and fourth respectively in the Relkeel. Victory went to Camping Ground, a versatile performer over hurdles and fences in France who found everything falling right on the day. He may not have won on the heavy but, as Leighton Aspell pointed out, when it’s soft in France it’s very soft indeed. Also, he’d been fourth in the Imperial Cup at Sandown with Thistlecrack just behind and that is excellent handicap form. The trip in the Relkeel was just too sharp for Cole Harden but possibly too far for Top Notch in those conditions. To me, he was keeping on well enough in the closing stages in fourth and I’d give him another chance over a trip, although whether he will ever stay three miles is another matter and opportunities for top-class two and half mile hurdlers are thin on the ground.
Nicky Henderson runs POLLY PEACHUM in the 32Red.com Mares’ Hurdle, a Listed event at Sandown on Saturday. I have always been a fan of hers and she all but landed the Mares’ Hurdle at the festival, though only after Annie Power had capsized at the last, of course. Willie Mullins still won that race with Glens Melody and in theory he will know how he stands with Polly Peachum when two more of his talented mares, Gitane Du Berlais and Petite Parisienne, line up on Saturday. But on a line through Emily Gray, Gitane Du Berlais is not as good as Glens Melody and Petite Parisienne still needs to prove herself at this level. This may be the right race for Polly Peachum, who will be straighter for her surprising defeat first time up at Kempton.
I thought LEVIATHAN had a faint squeak in The Ladbroke, though there was never very much chance he would beat the cut. He has only 10st 1lb in the 32Red.com Handicap Hurdle and will think he is running loose with that weight. Miss Williams’ horses continue to run well and her record on Saturdays brooks no argument, but Leviathan can be only a small each-way investment.
Lancelot Du Lac, a grand old sprinter, will probably start favourite for the valuable fast track qualifier at Chelmsford, also on Saturday. His most interesting rival is RAMGOOM, who comes over from Germany. Although a prolific winner, he has not raced against opponents of this calibre at home, although Michael Appleby sent Thorpe Bay over to Neuss for a fair contest recently and Ramgoom thrashed him by five lengths. He may be the value in this race, though we needed one more runner for the 1-2-3.