Mike Cattermole: Simply the best
Andy Murray, Paddy Brennan, the Tizzards and Jim Best all come under the microscope in top racing broadcaster Mike Cattermole's latest column.
Colin and Joe Tizzard must be having the time of their lives right now, overseeing the likes of Cue Card, Thistlecrack and Fox Norton, and I have a strong feeling that the Somerset father and son combo are going to be hogging the headlines yet again this weekend because Native River can win the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury.
You see, I was much taken by Un Temps Pour Tout's winning return over hurdles at Aintree, which must have teed him up perfectly for this, even if he is 10lb higher than winning the Ultima Handicap Chase at the Festival from Holywell (still fair value at 25-1 with Sky Bet).
But can he beat Native River? The two previous occasions they met, he couldn't. Sure, you can forget his fourth behind his old rival in the Grade One Mildmay Novices' Chase at Aintree as the David Pipe-trained gelding came back sore. But you can't ignore what happened a year ago at this very meeting, when Native River dished out a near four-length beating to him and yet is still 3lb better off.
Neither chaser has stood still since and I also liked Native River's prep over hurdles at Wetherby when an excellent second to Silsol.
And surely schooling with the mighty Thistlecrack at home since won't do any harm. If he sharpens up his jumping (he can hit one) he has much in his favour as he does stay extremely well.
Smad Place thumped the Tizzard-trained Theatre Guide by 12 lengths last year and yet is only 1lb worse off now. However, the list of dual winners consists of Mandarin, Arkle and Denman so that tells you hard it is to do it.
If he's on a good day, don't be surprised to see Houblon Des Obeaux go well again (20-1 with Sky Bet). He was second to Many Clouds in the 2014 version off a 4lb higher mark but boasts even better Newbury form than that, going down by only seven lengths to Coneygree (who received 1lb) in February, 2015.
It is such a shame that there won't be any Irish runners lining up – for the first time since Ever Blessed's year in 1999. There has been no Irish-trained winner of course since Michael O'Brien's Bright Highway in 1980 and it doesn't seem to be a race that figures highly on the various agendas these days. Gigginstown's three entries run elsewhere.
This is something that Newbury ought to take a look at.
"Colin and Joe Tizzard must be having the time of their lives right now and I have a strong feeling that they are going to be hogging the headlines yet again this weekend because Native River can win the Hennessy Gold Cup."
PADDY BRENNAN 1000 UP
Good for Paddy Brennan, who had a great week, notching up his career 1000 and then teaming up with the peerless Cue Card in the Betfair Chase. It doesn't get any better.
Brennan was very humble as he notched up his landmark winner on Colin's Sister at Warwick last week but he has much to be proud about. In his younger days, Brennan would admit that he could be a difficult individual but he has matured and seems happy with life now.
He is utterly professional and Cue Card is now the third top-class chaser he has forged a successful partnership with, following Imperial Commander and Gods Own.
It was great to see Cue Card back to his best at Haydock as we had all wondered – well, I had – if his powers were on the wane after Wetherby. The £1m bonus is back on again but I wonder if Coneygree will try and stop him at Kempton?
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There seems to be a universal acceptance that this was a superb comeback by Coneygree whose jumping looked exceptional again and he looks to retain all of his considerable ability. Mark and Sara Bradstock now have a tough decision to make about whether to go to Kempton or go for the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown. The intriguing thing is whether he will come forward for Haydock – he had a hard race, no mistake – or bounce.
Me? I would go to Leopardstown and avoid Cue Card but you can see him getting into a great rhythm around Kempton. Either way, a repeat win in the Gold Cup is by no means out of the question at this stage. There's a long way to go yet, though.
JIM BEST CASE
I am sorry but I just can't take the Jim Best rehearing seriously at all. And it's nothing to do with Best growing a beard, although that doesn't help.
The case is already following a predictable path with Best's legal team doing everything they can to undermine Paul John as a witness.
I just wonder if this should be going ahead at all. The conflict of interest, which caused the first hearing to be compromised, was a monumental embarrassment to the BHA and perhaps they should have taken it on the chin, taken a standing count and then allowed everybody to move on.
Whoever was guilty or not over this sordid tale of horses being stopped, the protagonists involved would have been under the closest of scrutiny, going forward. One false move and the BHA would have been down on them like a ton of bricks.
Anyway, let's see what unfolds over the next few days. If Best shaves off his beard, I will completely lose it.
ANDY MURRAY – SIMPLY THE BEST
Sir Andy Murray, as he will be fairly soon, will look back on a brilliant career with huge pride when he decides to call it a day.
All of his hard work has paid off handsomely as he has finally reached the pinnacle of his sport and must now surely be regarded as Britain's greatest ever sportsman.
Even if he retired next week, Andy's CV has a fabulous look to it – two Wimbledon titles, double Olympic champion, Davis Cup hero, a US Open and now world number one – and all that in a vintage era involving Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal. Pretty good eh? And there could be much more to come.
Many still like to criticise Murray for his dour demeanour and, yes, he could do with smiling and lightening up a bit in his moments of triumph; his interview straight after defeating Djokovic on Sunday, being a case in point.
But, in his defence, the pressure he faces every time he walks on court must be immense. Consequently, his immediate release is probably a highly emotional one and that can affect people in so many different ways. Bottom line is he has a superb temperament and responds brilliantly when he is up against it.
Djokovic, on the other hand, has a look of vulnerability about him right now, which certainly wasn't apparent before, and he is finding it harder, for whatever reason, to motivate himself. He was, however, the most gracious loser on Sunday and that speaks volumes about his personality.
Murray comes across as a good guy too, with a witty and dry sense of humour when you get to know him, they say.
I have been told by some fellow Olympians, who shared time with him in the Olympic Village in Rio, that Murray made it his business to talk to everyone, showing a genuine interest in their sports and background and was charming and highly approachable, with no hint of arrogance or detachment during his time there.
I suppose his one remaining goal would be to win a career grand slam and there is no reason why not. He can recharge the batteries now before the Australian Open gets under way on January 16.
And what about mother Judy? Not only has she nurtured Andy but Jamie too who ends the year as the world number one doubles player. That's some achievement and it makes for an amazing story.
Brothers who play tennis at the top level aren't that rare – Vijay and Anand Amritraj and the Bryan and Gullickson twins spring to mind and they all made great doubles partners – but I doubt this astonishing scenario will ever be repeated.
OK, I'LL SEE YOUR JUDY MURRAY AND RAISE YOU JAYNE MOORE!
Unless of course Jamie and/or Josh Moore add to brother Ryan's three flat championships by winning the jump jockeys' championship!
All right, maybe a bit unlikely but Jayne Moore must be just as proud of her boys (and daughter Hayley) and it was great to see Jamie and Sire De Grugy back to near his best under topweight at Ascot on Saturday.
He won there off a mark of 160, which is pretty good going, but at his peak he managed to win at Chepstow off 172 in February, 2015, which was an outstanding effort. He is back up to 166 now so he is still a force to be reckoned with. Bring on Douvan!
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