WELL, that was the weekend that was - a Champion back to his best, a champion back to his worst and the second coming finally arriving, and in style.
Sadly the veteran pugilist that is Kauto Star couldn’t quite produce his A-game on the day but it would be a sin to let that detract from Long Run’s victory and the manner in which he jumped and galloped. It’s even possible to think that a Kauto Star running loose might struggled to have beaten Long Run on Saturday, such was the form he was in.
His faultless performance had been matched earlier on the card when his stablemate Binocular showed his Champion Hurdle rivals that he was still top dog, so to speak, with a riveting display against Overturn, Starluck and Khyber Kim. This fired him back up to the head of the market for the big race in March and who could comfortably say he’s not going to retain his crown?
AP McCoy experienced the ups and downs of racing that he knows better than anyone with the performances of Binocular and Kauto Star and ridiculously he has been criticised in the aftermath by many armchair jockeys for his ride on the latter. I find this ludicrous and I defy any of these people to settle a horse like Kauto Star in mid division when the pace is only average and he’s charging into the first few fences. Maybe it’s because he’s now 11, or the Nicholls horses have been a little quiet recently but whatever it was, it wasn’t the jockey.
Nicky Henderson had a Saturday that swayed far more towards the ups of the sport with a miraculous 5-timer at Kempton including a famous 1-2 in the King George. That said, he would have had to have watched his exciting young chaser Peveril take an almighty fall at Warwick that looked potentially fatal. Here’s hoping all is well with the horse and with a long lay-off he recovers well.
On to Wednesday’s action now where my favourite all-weather partnership of jockey George Baker and trainer Jeremy Noseda look to hold strong claims in the 12.50 at Lingfield with debutant Baharat.
Put simply, this is a weak race, with the only notable dangers coming from Materialism and possibly Ana Emarati, therefore even if Baharat is capable of only ordinary form, he could still end up winning this.
Materialism’s form from his only race to date looks very shakey and I have a feeling that people might be encouraged to back him over the selection owing to the fact that he was placed on his debut, but that would only help to give us a better price on Baharat.
Providing he doesn’t get caught wide from stall 8 of 8, I can see Baharat storming up the straight to win comfortably.
Over at Newbury, we’re set to see the second chase start of the extremely enthralling Finnian’s Rainbow (1.30), who should continue the good form of the Henderson stable.
Although it was only a 3-runner race he contested last time, the form can’t be faulted as he gave a 12-length beating to subsequent Grade 2 winner Hell’s Bay, jumping fluently by the end of the race after making a few mistakes early on.
I simply can’t see what is going to even challenge him in this race here and he should surely beat these horses if he’s going to go to Cheltenham with a serious chance.
Lastly we travel to Kempton, where Love Match (5.30) is slightly favoured over Acclamatory (6.30) on a competitive card. The latter named has an outside squeak of causing an upset in her race but the former has a more solid chance of victory.
Love Match is an enigma in that she is rated a fair bit higher on turf than she is on he all-weather. Logically, this is because she has shown better form on grass but I just have a feeling that she might be able to translate her form to the Polytrack and therefore prove well-handicapped. After all, she has only had 3 starts on the all-weather and the last of those was in April. In the interim, her turf form figures read ‘212434’ therefore I feel she is worth a win bet, but I have no doubt that the bookies will have noticed her being rated 9 pounds higher or turf and therefore will have factored this into her price.
With Marco Botti as her trainer and a very good apprentice in Toby Atkinson (son of Pat Eddery, no less) on her back, I think she’s a safe bet. Happy punting.
P.S. Are you too tempted by the 10/1 available about Kauto Star for the Gold Cup?
Wednesday, January 19
12.50 (Ling) Baharat (Nap)
1.30 (Newb) Finnian’s Rainbow
5.30 (Kemp) Love Match