Weights & Measures: Haydock
Ben Linfoot discusses Haydock winners Neon Wolf and Bristol De Mai with their new BHA ratings in mind in 'Weights & Measures'.
Neon Wolf: Well up to scratch with recent winners of the Sky Bet Supreme Trial
A Wolf at the door
Neon Wolf >>>> New entry at 148
Elgin >>>> Down 2lb to 143
Haydock's Sky Bet Supreme Trial Rossington Main Novices' Hurdle has a fantastic recent record at the Cheltenham Festival and it could be enhanced if this year's winner, Neon Wolf, is allowed to take his chance at Prestbury Park in March.
In 2010 Donald McCain's Peddlers Cross won by 16 lengths in the Haydock trial and went on to win the Neptune, two years later the same stable's Cinders And Ashes won at both Haydock and Cheltenham (in the Supreme) and then last year Dan Skelton's Its'afreebee won at Haydock before finishing third in the Neptune behind Yorkhill.
The highest rated of that trio was Peddlers Cross, on 148, and that's the identical rating Neon Wolf earned following his nine-length success on Saturday. Only Zamdy Man, rated 150 after beating Un Temps Pour Tout in 2014, has been allotted a higher number in recent years and he didn't make the Cheltenham Festival.
Neon Wolf got 3lb from the 145-rated Elgin, but he pulled clear from that rival in the final furlong to record a nine-length win and spark a guessing game with regards to his Cheltenham target.
A rating of 148 puts him just 1lb behind Neptune favourite Finian's Oscar, but it's difficult to argue there is any juice left in his price now, given that his trainer says he's a three-mile chaser in the making who "won't be risked if the going is too quick".
Perhaps, then, the more interesting one for Cheltenham at this stage is the runner-up, Elgin.
He's drifted out to as big as 33/1 for the Sky Bet Supreme, but he travelled into the Haydock trial nicely before being blown away by Neon Wolf in what were testing conditions.
The Flat-bred Elgin lost little in defeat, though, and he could be a different proposition back on good ground. In what looks a weak year (as things stand) for the Supreme, he might be underestimated at 33s, even if he has dropped a couple of pounds to 143.
Bristol creams Peter Marsh rivals
Bristol De Mai >>>> Up 12lb to 166
Otago Trail >>>> Remains on 151
Bishops Road >>>> Down 2lb to 147
Virak >>>> Down 5lb to 147
If there was one horse that was going to lay down Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup claims in the Peter Marsh Chase it was expected to be Alary, but while that horse flopped Bristol De Mai earned a ticket to the big show with a resounding success at Haydock.
He's paid for it though, his 22-length win ensuring a monster 12lb rise that means he's now rated 166. That's 2lb lower than Native River, the 6/1 second-favourite for the Gold Cup, and just 5lb lower than Thistlecrack, the 10/11 favourite.
Bristol De Mai is generally 16s for the Cheltenham feature, and a best price of 20s, but it's highly questionable whether he deserves to be as close to Colin Tizzard's star duo in the ratings list following this performance.
He was superb on Saturday, there is no doubt, but he had things go his way and he's already shown that testing conditions at Haydock play to his strengths like nowhere else, having won the novices' chase on the same card last season by 32 lengths.
Handicaps are out of the question for him now off his new mark and it remains to be seen how he'll get on at the top level. Saturday's race suited his rhythm, but the tempo of a Gold Cup could seriously unsettle him and it could be that we won't see him at his best again until he encounters soft ground on a flat track.
Otago Trail and Bishops Road were well beaten by the winner but ran well, both bouncing back from below-par performances on their previous starts, but the one to take out of the race with an eye on the immediate future could well be Virak.
He got tired late on, but had jumped well on the front end for a long way and his overall performance was much better than the distance he was beaten suggests. The good thing is he has dropped a further 5lb to 147, so that's a 12lb drop in just five runs.
He's gone close to winning off much higher marks and Paul Nicholls can be relied upon to find him a suitable opportunity.
Patiently and Politologue emerge with credit
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Waiting Patiently >>>> Up 9lb to 151
Politologue >>>> Remains on 152
The Grade Two Star Sports Cheltenham Preview Evening Novices' Chase on Saturday's Haydock card has also been a good pointer to the Festival in recent years.
In 2007 My Way De Solzen won at Haydock before landing the Arkle, while three years ago Taquin Du Seuil was victorious in Lancashire on his way to winning the JLT.
The last two winners, Wakanda and Bristol De Mai, have also gone on to better things subsequently and the same can be expected of the duo that fought out the finish on Saturday, Waiting Patiently and Politologue.
The latter comes out of the race as the best horse at the weights and he's considered to be 1lb better than Waiting Patiently, having lost by a length-and-a-quarter giving his rival 3lb.
He jumped superbly, but was vulnerable forcing the pace in what turned out to be a match, the front pair pulling 20 lengths clear of Its'afreebee in third.
Politologue remains a promising horse and the way he knuckled down once headed was a really good sign. He will probably run in the JLT, for which he's a 20/1 chance, but he's only six and Paul Nicholls has insisted all season we won't see the best of him until next year.
Waiting Patiently is a best of 25s for the JLT and is 20s for the Arkle, but Malcolm Jefferson was adamant he wouldn't run at Cheltenham unless the ground was soft.
That explains his big quotes as this was pretty impressive, his two-mile speed perhaps coming into play as he travelled supremely well off the leader.
Now rated 151 and unbeaten in three chases, he's one to keep on the right side of when he gets his conditions.
Well in for Timeform test on Saturday?
Ubaltique >>>> Up 7lb to 131
Pistol Park >>>> Up 3lb to 132
Waiting Patiently's win was another boost to the form of Venetia Williams' Burtons Well, who was beaten seven lengths by Jefferson's charge getting 3lb at Sedgefield in late November.
Burtons Well has won subsequently at Uttoxeter off 129, where he beat Pistol Park, giving him 1lb, by a length-and-a-quarter on New Year's Eve.
Pistol Park was second to Ubaltique at Haydock on Saturday and is now up to 132, so the improving Burtons Well could certainly be of interest off 136 in the Timeform Novices' Handicap Chase at Cheltenham on Saturday.
Williams has an incredible recent record in the Timeform race, even though she hasn't won it, as in the last five renewals she's had a placed runner every year, thanks to three seconds and two thirds. The early 8/1 available looks a good price given he's highly likely to turn up.
Anyway, I digress.
Looking at the Haydock race on Saturday, Ubaltique was winning the Racing UK Club Day Today Handicap Chase for the second year running after showing himself to be in good heart at Chepstow last time.
Up 7lb to 131, he'll run off a career high over fences next time and a lifetime best will be required if he's to defy the rise.
Given he's had 22 chase starts already, he might be one to avoid until he takes a tumble back down the weights.
Clyne well treated for Betfair Hurdle
The New One >>>> Remains on 163
Clyne >>>> Up 5lb to 148
It was good to see Clyne back up his Haydock win in December with a good second in the Stanjames.com Champion Hurdle Trial on Saturday, if only because we didn't see anything at all the last time he raced as he landed that contest lost in the fog.
The handicapper put him up 3lb for that success, but it was a complete guess as nobody, not even commentator Stewart Machin, could see anything in the conditions.
If you can't remember the race, here's the closing stages of Machin's commentary:
So, the latter stages of the race about to unfold. I can hear the hoofbeats coming. I can hear the crack of whips, but I can't see anything. And they're racing up towards the line. Probably. In thick fog, they come deep into the closing stages… and the race is over. But I'm afraid I can't tell you what won, what finished second or whether they all got round. Certainly to the fore late on looked like Draytonian, El Terremoto, Sharp Response and Super Sam were among those involved, but in what order – make up your own mind.
A great effort from Machin in extraordinary circumstances, and Clyne, who was called the winner by a carrot-eating judge close to the action, understandably didn't get a mention as he was scrubbed along in fourth when last in the commentator's view.
The classy winner rallied well in the end, but Clyne, getting 8lb from The New One, deserves great credit for making a race of it and getting within a length.
The New One did what The New One does. His record in non-Grade One contests is now an incredible 16 wins from 17 goes as he won this race for the third year running.
He remains a 163 horse and that will probably leave him a bit short again against the might of Willie Mullins in the Champion Hurdle, but perhaps he could improve up in trip in the Stayers', where his two-mile speed might well be a potent weapon.
A 25/1 chance for the three-mile race, it looks as though his trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies will take some persuading to re-route him from a fourth consecutive crack at the Champion.
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