The National Hunt season is getting into full swing and already a number of horses, four to be precise, have been identified that may well help to keep us cruising along. Three are trained by Gordon Elliott and one of them, Daylight Katie, has to take pride of place.
She has had eight outings in total, including two point-to-points, and gives the impression she has yet to give a real indication of her true ability. A faller, at Inch, in her first point, she made no mistake next time when scoring by four lengths at Lisronagh.
Daylight Katie was then absent for 13 months, until reappearing in a bumper at Naas last November when runner-up to the useful Caravation. In all, she ran in five bumpers, only managing a solitary success, scoring easily at Gowran Park, and that is hardly a ringing endorsement.
But it masks the true picture and her final two outings were her best, finishing a creditable third in a Grade Two at Aintree, before chasing home the very highly rated Peter Fahey-trained Gypsy Island in a Grade Three at the Punchestown Festival in May. A week ago, at Fairyhouse, Daylight Katie made her reappearance over flights and it was rather impressive.
Now she didn’t have much to beat and anything less than an emphatic win for the 2-5 shot would have been most disappointing. But she jumped and travelled like a dream through the contest and ended up winning by 26 lengths, essentially doing half speed. Far stiffer tests lie ahead, obviously, but right now she is just likeable.
The other three on the list all ran at Punchestown on Tuesday. Let’s start with Coko Beach, also trained by Elliott, who took a modest five-runner two and a quarter mile conditions hurdle. The only four-year-old in the field, he was actually wrong at the weights with three of his rivals.
His second, though, to Band Of Outlaws in the Fred Winter at the Cheltenham Festival in March told us he was the only possible star of the future in the field. The market indicated Coko Beach was sure to need the run, returning from a break of 164 days, and he was allowed to go off at 5-2.
As it turned out, he proved to be in an entirely different league to his rivals and won by eight and a half lengths, with any amount in hand. He shapes like a born chaser down the line, but will surely reward us over flights, especially given much softer ground and going out in trip.
At Punchestown, Elliott’s Larquebuse took a mares’ bumper, kicking Willie Mullins’ well-backed newcomer, Rhyme’n Rhythm, out of the way with the minimum of fuss. This was very encouraging, because the daughter of Saddle Maker failed to deliver in three runs last season, having gone off favourite each time.
But, looking at her down at the start on Tuesday, you could readily understand why she repeatedly didn’t come up to the mark. She’s a monster and can only get better with time and experience. You’d imagine there is good reason to believe she will make, at worst, a solid hurdler and then a chaser.
And we already know Larquebuse can jump, having begun life with one pop in a point, winning by eight lengths at Durrow in March of last year. Noel Meade’s horses are absolutely flying and his Sixshooter was the other to catch the eye at Punchestown. There was nothing spectacular about his dismissal of main market rival, You Raised Me Up, in a two and a half-mile maiden hurdle.
But, just as he had done when winning both his bumpers, Sixshooter found plenty when the pressure was applied and that augurs well for the future. Aidan O’Brien has always come across as a chilled individual, but you’d imagine he will be slightly worried over the coming winter.
The bottom line is that, unless something dramatic happens in the closing weeks of the campaign, his juveniles will go on their long break regarded as being short of top class. No need to stress then! For years Godolphin has had to play second fiddle to Ballydoyle, but there are now solid reasons for thinking a changing of the guard is imminent.
That is a logical conclusion, because one would be hard pressed to put forward a Ballydoyle two-year-old you would consider a possible Classic winner next season. In the meantime, Godolphin have three, headed by the brilliant Pinatubo and backed up by Middle Park Stakes winner at Newmarket, Earthlight, and Victor Ludorum, who landed a Group 1 at Longchamp last time.
Pinatubo had those ‘experts’, who declared he was a sprinter, scurrying for cover after his terrific performance last Saturday when taking the seven-furlong Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket. This was, arguably, his best display thus far, having to get down and dirty, on unsuitable soft ground, to score by two lengths.
He will get a mile standing on his head and only if failing to meet the engagement can you envisage him not winning the 2000 Guineas. Mind you it is interesting to note that the four horses who immediately chased Pinatubo home in the Dewhurst are all trained by Aidan O’Brien, so there’s always hope!
I don’t know what sort of magic there is on the Willie Mullins gallops, but, even by his lofty standards, for him to win English Cesarewitch at Newmarket and the Irish equivalent at the Curragh, as well as the Munster National at Limerick, last weekend, was quite extraordinary.
Apparently, no-one in the Mullins camp gave Stratum a prayer at Newmarket, so there is probably no explaining that. But Royal Illusion at the Curragh and Cabaret Queen at Limerick must have had the respective handicappers thinking the way I sometimes do after a bad day’s punting.
You know, as you head for the cot, beaten and battered, you wonder if it might be better to get out of the game altogether and ring the local farmer and ask if you might have a job say driving a tractor! I mean Royal Illusion won by eight and a half-lengths and Cabaret Queen by 13 lengths.
Had Paul Townend so wished, there is no doubt Cabaret Queen could have won by a lot more. A punter who has got it wrong can only suck it up, but handicappers have tools at their disposal. This week they took their revenge, with Royal Illusion going up 13lbs and Cabaret Queen 18lbs.
Some weeks ago, we went on here regarding the possibility of Kew Gardens turning over Stradivarius at this afternoon’s British Champions’ Day at Ascot. It’s time then to put the money where the old mouth is and we will be doing just that, each-way mind you.