Acapella rises more than a stone after solo display

Acapella Bourgeois: a clearcut winner of the Ten Up Novices Chase

PICTURE: EDWARD WHITAKER Acapella rises more than a stone after solo display
By Richard Forristal 7:40PM 20 FEB 2017

THE TURF CLUB's senior handicapper Noel O'Brien has hailed Acapella Bourgeois' pillar-to-post rout in Sunday's Ten Up Novice Chase as "staggering" and given it the official stamp of approval by hiking his rating by 15lb to 158.

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It is a mark just 2lb shy of the injured Min and only 3lb adrift of established Grade 1 performer Don Poli, who was rated 156 before he won the 2015 RSA Chase.

The progressive seven-year-old's RSA odds were cut to around 16-1 (from 33) after his 32-length Navan demolition, and BoyleSports cut him again on Monday to 12-1. Bet365 quote just 9-1.

Acapella Bourgeois is now the highest rated horse in the RSA, 4lb superior to market leader Might Bite's BHA rating of 154, although trainer Sandra Hughes has stressed that Acapella Bourgeois wouldn't run at Cheltenham on good ground.

"It was a staggering performance, and he gave the last fence plenty of light as well – he wasn't stopping," said O'Brien on Monday.

'Hard to find a flaw'

Much of the post-race debate focused on Acapella Bourgeois being granted a soft lead. However, O'Brien did not feel the need to treat the performance with a pinch of salt.

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"You can talk about the testing ground and tactics or whatever, but the other horses ran to their ratings and in sequence, and he just looked in a different league," he said.

"There was nothing coasting in behind. Ruby Walsh sat closest to him on Haymount, and he paid the price.

"It's very hard to find a flaw in Sunday's form, although Anibale Fly was struggling from an early stage. There was no 120-horse lurking in there dragging the form down and Acapella Bourgeois slaughtered them. Some of his jumping was spectacular, and my thinking was, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it probably is a duck."

O'Brien added: "The 158 is a huge rating for a novice, although it's still lower than Min, who I have on 160."

Ground is key

Jockey Walsh echoed O'Brien's sentiments, reflecting: "It was a good performance by the winner. My horse faded from the second-last and I couldn't keep going off the pace I set out on. Acapella Bourgeois deserves credit for the win."

Hughes said Acapella Bourgeois had come out of the race "100 per cent", and suggested the Ryanair Gold Cup at Fairyhouse or 3m1f Grade 1 at Punchestown would be considered if Cheltenham had to be skipped.

"What rating he has doesn't matter to us because we're going down a certain road with him, but it's nice to see he's respected by the handicapper, and his opinion would mean a lot to us," she said of her emerging star's lofty mark.

"Ground is key and he won't go to Cheltenham if the ground is good, as it would be too fast for him. He's a very talented horse. He was bought to be a chaser and now he is a man of a horse. It has taken this long for him to grow up, but patience pays."

Superb Story out

One horse who definitely won't be running at Cheltenham is last year's County Hurdle winner Superb Story, who was scratched from the Champion Hurdle by trainer Dan Skelton on Monday.

Skelton tweeted: "Superb Story will not be running at Cheltenham. He's got a small lesion in a tendon and will need time off. Possibly back in December."

Superb Story had been a 16-1 shot for the race.

Skelton also offered an update on Ch'Tibello, who chased Yanworth home in the Kingwell Hurdle on Saturday. The trainer said: "Ch'Tibello will have a soft palate cautery [wind op] as we felt he didn't get home as well as expected at the weekend. He's 50-50 for Cheltenham and if swerves it will go straight to Punchestown. Didn't make a noise at Wincanton but we had a look."

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