Eyecatchers: Baron can lord it
Our team each nominate an eyecatcher from the weekend and Ian Ogg provides the latest update from the jumps Notebook.
Baron Alco (r) would interest Ben Linfoot in handicap company
Doncaster's meeting on Saturday saw 1/16 chance Blue Rambler chinned in a match with Duel At Dawn and judged by the roar that erupted as the 9/1 chance refused to wilt up the home straight, it was safe to assume most of the Town Moor faithful in their Christmas jumpers were all over the shock winner.
It was great stuff – anyway down to business as trainer Lucy Wadham sent a couple of interesting runners up the A1 from her Newmarket base for the two-day fixture with Potter's Legend running a fine race in the Grade 2 novice chase and looks the type who could take a decent staying handicap at some stage.
But her Minstrels Gallery could have something to offer more immediately following his fourth in the handicap hurdle on Friday afternoon behind the game Midnight Jazz. A winner at the same fixture 12 months ago, the seven-year-old gelding was still in with every chance at the third last but found the main protagonists quickening away from him on what was deemed to be pretty decent ground for the time of year.
Big Chief Benny turned the form of their previous clash at Market Rasen around in the process but it was probably no great surprise on reflection as Minstrels Gallery does not possess an equal turn of foot in the closing stages against the speedier types. Give him a trip around two and half miles and some soft going when conditions begin to properly ease and the son of Refuse To Bend will be well worth a second glance next time as he appears to be in very good heart. (David John)
Baron Alco has to be one of my favourite horses in training. I love his bowed head carriage, his attitude, his style. And I think in time, we might look back and say his attempt to give Whisper 5lb and a beating was a commendable one. He's only run in small-field novice chases so far, but we know from his hurdling days he thrives in big-field handicaps. The assessor has bumped his mark up by an acceptable 2lbs and he's going to be of interest whenever (if!) Gary Moore aims him at an Ascot handicap chase. (Ben Linfoot)
Kim Bailey, a Gold Cup and Champion Hurdle winning trainer, has enjoyed a welcome resurgence in recent seasons but I cannot work out the campaigning of Un Ace either this season or last. The eight-year-old has had seven of his last nine starts over trips of around three miles and upwards and, to my eyes, hasn't once looked as though he really stays that far. He ran really well for a long way on Friday at Cheltenham before struggling to go with the principals, eventually finishing sixth some 15 lengths behind Theatre Guide.
He's never won beyond two miles four furlongs but certainly another quarter of a mile shouldn't trouble him and he's looking dangerously well handicapped, arguably for the first time over fences. I was sweet on his chances for the novices' handicap at the Festival in 2015 but he ended up 4lbs above the rating band and had to contest the Plate. He actually defied that mark at Ascot later that spring which saw his rating rise to 149 and he's now down to 137 after a 3lb drop for last week's performance.
Decent ground has been important to him in the past but I'd be very interested in wherever he turns up providing that he's dropped back in trip as there appears to be no doubt that the engine remains intact. (Ian Ogg)
Two of the Notebook team made it to the track in the last week and both ran respectably, hitting the frame.
Ballymountain Boy (16/1) justified his retention following his bad run at Cheltenham with a fine effort in testing conditions at Uttoxeter. The SIS Standard Open NH Flat Race looked to be a decent contest on paper beforehand and the winner certainly looked as though he could be well above average.
The winning margin was 12 lengths so Neon Wolf was a class apart but Martin Keighley's five-year-old finished over a length clear of the third with the field well strung out behind. I had rather expected him to be contesting hurdle races already and it remains to be seen how he's campaigned for the rest of this season but Ballymountain Boy remains one to be interested in.
She had finished a similar distance behind the progressive winner over course and distance in April on good ground and this was a return to form following her reappearance at Chepstow. The form of the Silver Trophy has worked out well once again with Ballyoptic, Taquin Du Seuil, Caid Du Berlais and Byron Flyer doing their bit for the race in some form or another.
A 3lb rise for Debdebdeb shouldn't be insurmountable, especially as she seems to be settling so much better now than earlier in her career and Dan Skelton should be able to find a race for this six-year-old who has still only had eight starts over hurdles and is thus relatively unexposed.
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