CHARLES Byrnes, Viking Hoard, Tramore Racecourse and 2018 have been the subject of much scrutiny this week, but I’d prefer to focus on Politologue, Magic Of Light, Ascot and the future!
Foul weather has claimed a number of meetings lately but fortunately, we have Grade 1 action on our agenda this weekend courtesy of Ascot’s Clarence House Chase.
Twelve-time winner Politologue heads the market having backed up his Champion Chase win with a dominant display in the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown in December. He has taken the scalp of Defi Du Seuil and Bun Doran in the past, but he faces a few fresh faces tomorrow afternoon.
Ruth Jefferson’s Waiting Patiently ran a huge race in defeat when finishing second to Frodon in the King George at Kempton over Christmas, the performance was made even more impressive considering he had gone over twelve months without a run.
A winner of half of his 14 career starts to date, connections of Waiting Patiently have decided to change tactics dramatically from the three-mile test of Kempton to tackling Champion Chase types over the minimum distance. Yes, it might seem somewhat bizarre, but Kauto Star did beat Voy Por Ustedes in the Tingle Creek before beating Exotic Dancer in the King George and Long Run in the Gold Cup – all in the same season! It can be done.
Other opponents this weekend include Defi Du Seuil and Jessica Harrington’s interesting contender Impact Factor, however, in reality, the race revolves around the top pair. Two 10-year-olds split by just two pounds on official ratings. Politologue is the proven formula but Waiting Patiently could spoil the Nicholls party.
Earlier on the same card, Jessica Harrington’s Magic Of Light goes for a hat-trick of wins in the Grade 2 Mare’s Hurdle over three miles. Runner-up behind Tiger Roll in the Aintree Grand National, Magic Of Light has proven her versatility throughout her 32-race career, winning five chases and three hurdles.
Despite her consistency and proven likability for this race, she is unlikely to head the market as that tag will probably be labelled on Dan Skelton’s former Cheltenham winner Roksana. Officially rated 4lbs superior to the Irish mare, Roksana has been mixing it with the best in the staying hurdle division this season, running a career-best when third behind Paisley Park and Thyme Hill in the Long Walk Hurdle over course and distance on her most recent start.
Whitehotchillifili and Eglantine Du Seuil (entered in Goffs UK sale next week) add further intrigue to an already fascinating affair, but that pair will have to improve significantly to trouble the main duo.
On the home front, Thurles stage a highly competitive card on Sunday featuring a pair of Graded events.
An emphatic winner of her beginners chase at Cork over two miles where she beat the re-opposing pair Mount Ida and Scarlet And Dove, Yukon Lil failed to settle at Navan last time where it appeared, she didn’t to stay behind Fils d’Oudairies. Considering Sunday’s small field and less demanding track, connections will be hoping she can relax better and finish stronger which would considerably aid her chances against likely front runner Western Victory.
On the same card, the Horse And Jockey Hotel Chase (traditionally known as the Kinloch Brae Chase) has an illustrious roll of honour which includes Native Upmanship (twice), Don Cossack (twice) and Sizing John.
The entries for this year’s renewal were dominated by Willie Mullins who is currently operating at a staggering 33% winners to runners strike rate, but I like Battleoverdoyen against the Closutton juggernaut.
Fourth behind Champ, Minella Indo and Allaho at Cheltenham, Battleoverdoyen sprung a slight surprise on his season debut at Down Royal in October by beating Samcro and Easy Game in Grade 2 company. We didn’t see much of his fourth-place performance in the John Durkan when fog impeded our view but there is no Min to match this Sunday.
Unlike some of his opponents, Battleoverdoyen skipped the Christmas Festivities, thus he comes here fresh and could pounce again in a race that could be tailor-made for him.