Bandit steals a Notebook place
Our team each pick out three eyecatchers from the weekend, while Ian Ogg provides the latest update on our Jumps Notebook.
But I won't cry for yesterday, there's an Ordinary World (far side).
FIREBIRD FLYER: Given his burly appearance in the paddock beforehand, Firebird Flyer shaped with considerable promise as he chased home a progressive and positively-ridden rival at Haydock on Saturday (watch the replay here). A few interesting horses have already been nominated as possible Welsh National contenders this season, but it's a race in which horses who have run well before in the race tend to fare particularly well and I'd have this chap right at the top of my shortlist. He's higher in the weights than when second to Mountainous last season but deservedly so – he had all bar the winner well beaten off at the finish – and picked up the Midlands National at Uttoxeter as a tasty sweetener afterwards. Absolutely bottomless ground is not an essential, but he doesn't mind it at all, and that is never a bad thing for any Welsh National contender given the micro-climate that seems to hover over the track on that day each year. (WH)
KINGS BANDIT: Gordon Elliott performed wonders with Diamond King last season and his owner, Mrs Diana Whateley, will have been pleased by the start that Kings Bandit made for the yard at Cork on Sunday (click here for the replay). It might be expecting a bit much for the eight-year-old to follow suit but he was a very promising youngster and looks to have retained his ability judged by this run, just his fourth since April 2014. He travelled well and looked sure to play a leading role in the finish before losing his pitch and then staying on again in a manner that suggests the run was needed. He has plenty of scope from his current handicap mark if his new team can keep him sound. He was edged out for fourth by Gallant Oscar (who was sent off at 16/1 for the Grand National only to unseat). Like that rival this two and a half mile trip was clearly short of his optimum and it's equally clear that he's returned in rude health. He should also be watched with interest in the coming weeks. (IO)
RIGADIN DE BEAUCHENE: Not one for the long-term here by any means, but I thought old Rigadin De Beauchene shaped like a horse that retains all of his old ability in the three-and-a-half mile handicap chase at Haydock on Saturday. Obviously, conditions were very testing, and he loves that, but he jumped well in the lead for a long way, only tiring on his first start for nine months under top weight in the final couple of furlongs. His mark certainly won't go up for this, and it might even come down a little, but whatever the handicapper does I'm convinced he's got something like a veterans' chase in him soon granted similar stamina-sapping conditions. He was beaten by two relative youngsters in first and second here, but he'd be one to be interested in if unleashed in one of those popular senior citizens' handicaps. (BL)
It was a case of ifs, buts and maybes for the Notebook runners over the last five days with a couple of notable performances which came up just short.
The six-year-old was pitched in at a rather higher level than we'd anticipated but certainly proved up to the task and it could be more of the same with Henry de Bromhead commenting: "I think the two-mile-one at Leopardstown at Christmas is the obvious race for him [Identity Thief] and probably Ordinary World as well.
"We'll see, as I think there is a winners' race at Naas just after that so we'll see what Chris (Jones, owner of Ordinary World) would like to do. But for Identity Thief, I think definitely that."
"I wouldn't underestimate the other lad," he added but that seems unlikely now after another proficient display of jumping, which is bad news for our purposes as it means that he is either likely to be prohibitively short odds in lesser company, or taking on the top-class horses in his division, such as his stablemate. Grrr… Annoying.
Expectations were rather higher for Singlefarmpayment (4/1 joint-favourite) in the Bam Construct UK Chase at Ascot on Saturday and he ran a perfectly decent race to finish second to fellow market leader Beware The Bear.
The winner is clearly quite well regarded and Singlefarmpayment briefly looked as though he had him in trouble but was over two lengths adrift at the line. Tom George's runner will go up by a couple of pounds for this but should still have the scope to win something similar.
Sadly she failed to read the script and was hardly out of last place in the Bathwick Tyres Taunton Handicap Hurdle before pulling up.
There was definite promise to be taken (again) from the run of Vieux Lille (9/2) in a hot contest but his jumping rather went to pieces as the pressure was cranked up in the final stages in the Bathwick Tyres Novices' Chase.
It doesn't really change the view on him, but he will have to learn from this experience if he's to turn his obvious ability into victories and perhaps an attempt to boost his confidence in lesser company will pay dividends.
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