Weights & Measures: Cheltenham
Has the handicapper underrated the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup? Ben Linfoot thinks so – he rounds up the latest BHA ratings amendments.
Frodon: Up 4lb for his Caspian Caviar victory
Handicapper undervalues Caviar
Frodon >>>> Up 4lb to 153
Aso >>>> Up 1lb to 145
Village Vic >>>> Remains on 158
Quite By Chance >>>> Remains on 147
Kylemore Lough >>>> Remains on 156
It's a little bit surprising the handicapper has gone easy on those who fought out the finish to the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup. Run at a solid gallop, thanks to the likeable Village Vic, on softening ground we'll become familiar with over the coming months, it's expected the form will work out well.
Frodon goes up just 4lb for victory and, now rated 153, he'll be a player if returning to novice company with an eye on the JLT at the Cheltenham Festival. He had a 7lb weight-for-age allowance here, but his slick jumping (bounced back nicely in that department after race-ending error at the fourth last in the BetVictor) looks a weapon and he's progressing nicely.
He could well step up to three miles yet and the same could be said of the runner-up, Aso, who didn't jump anywhere near as neatly as the winner. There's room for improvement in that department and a slight step up in distance could help. Up just 1lb, he'll remain of major interest given he's guaranteed to get his conditions again and again.
Village Vic remains on 158 and will be worth another crack at graded level. His aggressive style and excellent jumping – although Philip Hobbs himself admitted he wasn't as fluent as he can be here – could serve him very well in that sort of company. There should be plenty of opportunities for him.
Yet the two that I'm really keen to keep an eye on are the fourth and fifth home, Quite By Chance and Kylemore Lough, who remain on marks of 147 and 156 respectively.
The former relished the return to two and a half miles and will in all likelihood remain at this distance now. He was done no favours by the fall of Kings Odyssey and stayed on really well to grab a place up the hill. He remains in cracking form and could well be of interest off his current mark next time.
Kylemore Lough might well have won this with a clear round. A bad mistake three from home looked like it would end his chance but he forged back into the lead, the error perhaps taking its toll after the last, which he fiddled over, his challenge fading up the hill.
A Grade One winner at Fairyhouse as a novice last season, Kerry Lee's seven-year-old still looks to be progressing nicely. He could well represent the yard at the top level again this season. But, off a mark of 156, connections might be wise to try and snaffle a nice handicap pot along the way.
The New One proves he's as good as ever
The New One >>>> Up 9lb to 167
My Tent Or Yours >>>> Remains on 155
The New One is back. Did he ever really go away? Well, yes, he definitely did. But he's back now. And as good ever by the looks of it. Up 9lb to a mark of 167, that's back to the highest number he's ever been awarded and at 25-1 he's arguably underestimated in the Champion Hurdle market.
Would I back him? No. I can't see the point in taking on Willie Mullins. He could probably have the first five home in the Champion Hurdle if he wanted to and his awesome ammunition in the division puts me off having an antepost bet on anything in the race.
But if I was forced to, say, choose between Yanworth at 10-1 and The New One at 25s, I would pick the latter without hesitation.
A few things have happened to revive him back to his best. Sam Twiston-Davies was interviewed by Niall Hannity on Racing UK at Carlisle on Sunday and he referenced a new bit that his father had tried him in, while Olympic three-day eventer Andrew Nicholson is credited with helping him jump straight.
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Those little tweaks and the adoption of front-running tactics helped him to record his best performance in 11 starts stretching back over two years. Hopefully he can kick on from this and have a good season. If he stays over hurdles, which was the indication from Nigel Twiston-Davies afterwards, perhaps the Grade One Aintree Hurdle, which he won in 2014, will be his best chance of top-level success.
Again, though, that will depend on what Mullins has up his sleeve.
As for My Tent Or Yours, this was a bit better wasn't it? He was best in at the weights and was getting 8lb from The New One, but part of me still wants to believe he can improve his form on better ground. I guess the jury is out.
The assessor leaves him on 155, a mark which he might well be competitive off back in handicap company. I won't go over old ground, with the topic discussed in a previous Weights & Measures.
Get the Baron in your trackers
Baron Alco >>>> Up 2lb to 140
No chase mark for Whisper yet after his renaissance at Cheltenham on Saturday but Baron Alco, a-two-and-a-half-length second to Nicky Henderson's horse, giving him 5lb, goes up just 2lb to 140.
I'd be sorely tempted to back him in a handicap chase off that rating. He's a genuine, likeable, uncomplicated horse who already looks a better chaser than hurdler. He's not reliant on particular ground conditions and can strut his stuff in small and large fields.
I'm not saying Whisper ran to his best hurdles mark of 167, or even his current one of 159, but, in time, it could well transpire that Baron Alco ran a belter giving him 5lb for a slender beating and, off a mark of 140, he could well land a decent Saturday pot sometime soon.
He's won at Kempton, he's won at Ascot and, as this proves, he goes well at Cheltenham. He's going to have plenty of options and his wily handler, Gary Moore, can be relied upon to find him the perfect opportunity. Get him in your tracker.
Eastlake thwarts handicapper again
Eastlake >>>> Up 6lb to 154
Question: Who do you think went up more following Saturday's action? The unexposed, smooth, improving four-year-old who won the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup by one-and-a-half lengths, or the exposed, moody, hard-to-predict 10-year-old who was driven out to win the Raymond Mould Handicap Chase by just a quarter-of-a-length further after the runaway leader departed when 10 lengths clear three out?
Answer: The latter. Eastlake. The handicapper's nightmare.
Jonjo O'Neill and JP McManus' horse was probably lucky to win this. De Faoithesdream, the 10-length leader who came to grief three from home, still looked to be going very well when he slipped and fell on landing and the race changed complexion dramatically in an instant.
Eastlake, a 33-1 chance, and the winner of the same contest back in 2013, took full advantage of the position he found himself in when the leader fell and responded well to Barry Geraghty's urgings to seal the win.
Found to have a fibrillating heart when he pulled up at Cheltenham last time, he soon bounced back from such a setback even if this race was thrown into his lap somewhat.
The upshot is a 6lb rise and a career-high mark of 154. Harsh on the face of it, but you feel the handicapper's pain. He had form figures of PU-PU-5-PU-9 prior to his Topham win, that sequence of runs seeing him drop 6lb from 148 to 142.
On his first two starts this season he was pulled up as well, but his mark didn't budge an inch from 148. Now 6lb higher after Saturday's shock win, you fancy he'll have to get a fair few more PUs on his record before he's well treated enough to strike again.
Farm at home at Cheltenham
Singlefarmpayment >>>> Up 9lb to 142
There was plenty to like about Singlefarmpayment's success at Cheltenham on Friday in a race last season's RSA Chase winner Blaklion won en route to the Festival.
The RSA would be a lofty target for Singlefarmpayment, this being his first chase win in three attempts after all, but he's really getting to grips with the bigger obstacles now and there's no disputing his affinity for Cheltenham.
He's won on his only two visits to the track and this was a smooth success, as he travelled supremely well before finding plenty to see off Arpege D'Alene.
This victory came on good ground, but he's equally at home on softer conditions and I wonder if he'll be aimed at something like the Ultima Handicap Chase, won last season by Un Temps Pour Tout?
Given how he glides around the track, I'm sure Tom George will have something at the Festival in mind for him. He could have plenty more to give yet.
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