If you had filed the 2021 Arkle Chase at Cheltenham in the ‘done and dusted’ draw then events at Leopardstown on Saturday should have you reaching for the drawing board.
Shishkin is a monster and for most Cheltenham devotees, it appeared to be a simple case of last year’s Supreme Novices’ winner just turning up for a second year running and collecting the Arkle loot. Not anymore.
Energumene’s performance in the Irish Arkle Chase was so good that it rivalled stablemate Monkish for the novice performance of the weekend, and that in itself is high praise.
A bold-jumping, ten-length thrashing of a good quality field was firmly backed up by the clock. Official timings have him down as running the 2m 1 1/2f trip over a second quicker than that of Dublin Chase hero Chacun Pour Soir on the same card, which is somewhere in the region of five lengths.
There are some doubts about the accuracy of these times given the differing ways that each race got underway but even so, to be in the same ball park as the best 2m chaser in training is some achievement for one so lightly raced.
The only potential negative in Energumene’s performance was his propensity to shift to his right at some of his fences, something that (bizarrely) Willie Mullins said he didn’t notice in the post-race interview.
Either way, Energumene looks a potential superstar for his owner Tony Bloom and, if he attacks his fences at Cheltenham in the same vein as he did at Leopardstown, then Shishkin has a real race on his hooves.
Monkfish A Champion In Waiting
Shishkin’s ante-post backers might not be sitting as comfortably as they were but the opposite is now true for those that had the foresight to get on Monkfish for the Festival Novices’ Chase, or the RSA Chase to you and me.
Monkfish was so dominant in the Flogas Novices’ Chase that it is impossible to find a chink in his armour. Furthermore, he showed a higher cruising speed on Sunday than I originally thought he possessed and he is clearly not just the dour stayer that some had him pigeon-holed as.
You could argue that Sunday’s contest was as strong, contender wise, as the RSA is likely to be, so for those looking to build a banker acca, Monkfish has to go in.
In the longer term, Monkfish looks all over a Gold Cup contender in 2022 so for those that don’t mind playing the waiting game, the current 10/1 about him winning that contest next year will be a distant memory should he, as expected, do the business on March 17.
Jazz Can Give His Rivals The Blues In Winter Derby
There is a good chance that we saw the Winter Derby winner in the last week, but not in the race you might have thought.
Lingfield’s Winter Derby Trial was won by Bangkok, as the market strongly suggested it would, but Andrew Balding’s talented all-weather performer appears to be heading for sunnier and significantly more valuable climbs in Saudi Arabia.
The horse Bangkok beat on Saturday, Felix, looks an obvious Winter Derby type and I would have fancied Felix to reverse that form granted a more even gallop to chase down. However, the likes of Felix could struggle to cope with the emerging force that is Father Of Jazz who strolled to victory at the track around 24 hours earlier.
Despite conceding weight to his rivals, this improving son of Kingman tanked through that contest before skipping clear up the straight, in the manner of a horse that was well ahead of his mark.
In theory, he is around a stone-and-a-half off the level typically required to win a Winter Derby but an 11lb hike up to a mark of 101 means he’s bridging the gap quickly and the way this horse races screams that he’ll be even better suited by the tempo of a higher-quality contest.
The Winter Derby market has been a bit of a minefield for some time now with richer prizes abroad tempting the bigger names away, leaving the likes of Global Giant setting the standard, but he’s fairly exposed as Listed/Group 3 class so isn’t in the same league as John Gosden’s recent winners Dubai Warrior and Wissahickon.
The door is firmly ajar for an up and comer like Father Of Jazz who is one of the few likely contenders that has aspirations of going right to the top on the level.
Tipple Rejuvenation Could Be On The Cards
It’s safe to say that the career of Mums Tipple hasn’t really gone the way it looked likely to since his demolition job at York in the summer of 2019, but there were signs at Lingfield on Saturday that this horse might just be on his way back.
Having his first run on an all-weather surface in the Listed Kachy Stakes, Ryan Moore’s mount endured a fairly luckless run around the inside and ended up being beaten less than two lengths, finishing full of running in behind the leaders.
It looks like that was a ‘sighter’ for a crack at the sprint event on All-Weather Finals Day and, if that was the case, the Hannon team must be pretty confident that Mums Tipple can, at the very least, turn the form around with the likes of Exalted Angel and Fizzy Feet, who were first and second.
Good Effort would have been the most likely winner of the sprint but he is out in Dubai so must be an unlikely runner now, leaving the door open for one that is not yet fully exposed under these conditions. Mums Tipple fits that bill perfectly.