Bobo Mac - Chepstow 9th Jan
Bobo Mac ran better than the bare form of his performance suggests in the Welsh National on Saturday. Dropped in towards the rear of the field, second last of the 18 runners as they started off down the back straight first time, he travelled and jumped well through the early part of the race for Adrian Heskin.
He was going well in mid-division and along the inside, when he made a significant mistake at the second last fence on the first circuit, which didn't help. He did recover his equilibrium, and he made good ground down the back straight final time to move into a nice position as they raced around the home turn, along the inside and not more than four lengths behind the leader. He travelled as well as any of his rivals on the run to the fifth last fence, and he did pick up when he rider asked him to from the fourth last fence. But he wasn't overly fluent at the third last, and his stamina appeared to ebb from that point. It appeared as though he tired over the last two fences and up the run-in, finishing just sixth in the end, nine lengths behind the impressive winner Secret Reprieve, but it was still a fine performance, over this extreme distance.
Bobo Mac raced over a distance in excess of three and a quarter miles just once before, in the Classic Chase at Warwick last January, when he again weakened late on and finished only seventh behind Kimberlite Candy. He should do better now, dropped back to three miles or three and a quarter miles. As well as that, he raced in rear on Saturday in a race in which the prominent racers did best.
He was the only one of the first seven home who was worse than midfield early on, and the second and fourth, The Two Amigos and Yala Enki, raced in first and second respectively from flagfall. Tom Symonds' horse has just turned 10, but he is still relatively lightly raced over fences, and he will be of interest again now in a three-mile handicap chase off his current mark in the mid-130s. He holds an entry in the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster at the end of this month, and he could be an interesting outsider if he took his chance in that.
Ask Me Early - Chepstow 9th Jan
Ask Me Early put up a nice performance to win the three-mile novices' handicap chase at Chepstow on Saturday. Sent to the front from flagfall by Sean Bowen, and quickly into a nice rhythm in front, he travelled well through his race and his jumping was good. Hold That Taught moved up on his outside as they left the back straight, but he never ceded the lead. The front two landed over the fifth last fence almost in unison, but Ask Me Early moved on again fractionally at the fourth last, and a superb jump at the third last took him into a one-and-a-half-length lead.
He got in tight to the final fence, and that gave his pursuer a chance, but he recovered his momentum half way up the run-in, and he stayed on again close home to win by almost two lengths, with the pair of them well clear of their remaining rivals. This was another good performance by Harry Fry's horse. A point-to-point winner, he only ran twice over hurdles before embarking on his chasing career last month, when he again made all and stayed on well over Saturday's course and distance to beat Lord Napier and Thomas Macdonogh.
He is all stamina, he races as if he will do even better when he goes beyond three miles and, as such, given his forward-going style of racing, and the fact that he is two for two over fences at Chepstow on soft and heavy ground, next year's Welsh National would be a legitimate long-term plan. In the meantime, he will be of interest in another staying handicap chase, as long as there is an emphasis on stamina. He is only seven and he has the potential to progress by more than the 7lb hike with which the handicapper has rewarded him.
Two For Gold - Kempton 9th Jan
It may pay to retain faith in Two For Gold for another little while yet. He was pulled up in the Ladbrokes Trophy on his penultimate run, and he could only finish third in the three-mile handicap chase at Kempton on Saturday on his latest start, when he was sent off as favourite, but it may be that we will not see the best of him until he can get back on genuine soft ground again.
The ground was unseasonably good at Newbury on Ladbrokes Trophy day, and it was no worse than good to soft on the chase course at Kempton on Saturday. It appears that he is at his best when he can get into a rhythm up in a prominent position on soft ground, as he did when he won the Grade 2 Hampton Chase at Warwick last January. His jumping suffered on the ground at the pace through the middle part of the race on Saturday, he got shuffled back from a decent position just behind the leaders, and he had to do a lot of running to recover that ground.
In the circumstances, he did well to get back onto the coat-tails of the leaders as they raced around the home turn. He actually manoeuvred his way into contention at the second last fence but, while he stayed on well from there, he just couldn't get to Double Shuffle or Ami Desbois. Even so, he was only beaten a total of two lengths. The handicapper raised him by 2lb to a mark of 149 for Saturday's run, but that is still a mark that he could surpass now when he races next on soft ground. That was just his seventh run over fences, so he still has the potential to go higher.
Castle Robin - Kempton 9th Jan
Castle Robin ran well in the Lanzarote Hurdle at Kempton on Saturday to finish sixth behind Boreham Bill. Prominent from early, and racing towards the inside, he raced in the second wave behind the clear leader, favourite One True King. He jumped into a dispute of the lead at the sixth flight, despite making a mistake, and he remained in the front rank before kicking into the lead on his own as they rounded the home turn.
He came under pressure though as they straightened up for home and his early exertions told. He was only fourth jumping the second last flight, and he just kept on from there to finish sixth. Charlie Longsdon's horse raced prominently and towards the inside from early, which may not have been ideal, given how the race was run. The first five home all came from further back, and four of them raced towards the outside for most of the race, probably on the best of the ground.
It is therefore probable that Castle Robin can be marked up a fair bit on the bare form of the run. He remains progressive. A point-to-point winner for Paul Cashman in November last season - and unlucky not to have won the previous April - the Robin Des Champs gelding won two of his first three races this season, the latter a 17-runner conditional jockeys' handicap hurdle at Chetlenham's November meeting off a handciap rating of 119, and he ran well on his last run before Saturday to finish second to an impressive Nicky Henderson French recruit, Emir Sacree, in another conditional jockeys' handicap hurdle at Ascot off a mark of 126. The handicapper raised him by 4lb for that to a mark of 130, and he has left him on that mark after Saturday's run. That is fair, and it is a mark that he could surpass now. A half-brother to Fortria Chase winner Arctic Skipper, he has only just turned six and he has run just six times over hurdles, so he has the potential to continue his progression.
Sage Advice - Kempton 9th Jan
Sage Advice ran out an impressive winner of the juveniles' hurdle that opened proceedings at Kempton on Saturday. Keen enough early on, he settled into his race nicely as they raced down the back straight. He travelled well in fourth place as they raced to the home turn, as the first four broke clear, moved up nicely on the outside as they straightened up for home, and jumped the second last flight in second place behind Tinnahalla. He shipped a bump from his rival as they landed over that obstacle, but he picked up nicely on the run to the final flight, jumped that obstacle well and came away readily to win easily.
It was a taking performance by the Make Believe gelding on this, his hurdling debut and his first run for Dr Richard Newland. Winner of a 10-furlong maiden for Joe Murphy at Cork last August, and third in a 12-furlong handicap at Tipperary in September off a mark of 80, he jumped his hurdles well here, and he showed a good attitude. This was his first run since October, and it was his first run over hurdles and his first foray beyond a mile and a half, so he has bags of scope for progression now as a hurdler.
Oneupmanship - Kempton 9th Jan
A lot of the talk after the two-mile-five-furlong handicap hurdle at Wincanton on Satursday centred around the winner Sizable Sam, about how green he was, as was in evidence when he appeared to lose concentration on the run to the second last flight, and about how he won with more in hand than the winning margin. All of that is legitimate talk, but the performance that Oneupmanship put up in finishing second might have gone a little under the radar as a result.
Weak in the pre-race market, he travelled well through his race, and made nice progress down the back straight to move in behind Sizable Sam as they raced around the home turn. It appeared as if he was travelling at least as well as the leader at that point, before he came under pressure on the run to the second last flight, when Sizable Sam appeared to be going on before wandering at the second last flight and giving his pursuer a chance. Oneupmanship hit the front after the second last and, while Sizable Sam recovered his equilibrium and the lead, the Mahler gelding stuck to his task well and, the width of the track away from his rival, he kept on to finish within a half a length of the winner at the line.
Jack Barber's horse hasn't won yet, but he finished in the first four in all three of his bumpers last season, and he finished second to Tolworth Hurdle winner Metier in a novices' hurdle at Newton Abbot in October on his debut this season. This was just his third run over hurdles, and it was his best run yet, his first run in a handicap, over the longest trip over which he has ever run. The handicapper raised him by 5lb to a mark of 123, but he has only just turned six, and he has the potential to go higher than that. From the family of Thisthatandtother and Carlingford Lough, he could step up in trip too to three miles.