Yesterday bookmakers were going 5-1 the field for the Cheltenham Gold Cup and that indicates they’re just as confused as us mere punters.
We thought last Saturday’s Grade 1 Savills Chase at Leopardstown might lift the fog, but all it did was cloud the picture even more.
After it was over, we heard about the great race it was, the great spectacle, blah, blah, blah, but to my eyes it was almost farcical because the canny Rachael Blackmore was let loose up front on Monalee and allowed do as she pleased.
This was essentially Monalee’s Gold Cup, whereas others in the field were simply testing the waters with the future in mind.
Blackmore went no pace for much of the journey, stepped it up a little when the neeed arose and almost stole the €100,000 plus prize for connections.
Monalee, in the end, was mugged close home by Delta Work, after Blackmore had lost her irons on the run-in.
The notion that effort might now bring Monalee into Gold Cup reckoning is fanciful. All the evidence tells us he is well short of what is required.
And what of Delta Work? A leading novice last season, he ran a shocker on his seasonal debut when a remote fourth behind Road To Respect in the Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal in early November.
There was nothing of merit in that effort and, at Leopardstown, his rider, Jack Kennedy, gave the outside to no one.
I can only guess as to what Kennedy’s orders were, but they were surely along the lines of give the horse plenty of light, get him jumping and try and come home well.
When you have a contest that isn’t properly run then anything is possible and, of course, Delta Work ended up slipping the lot.
A year earlier Kemboy ran away with the Savills Chase, after getting an enterprising drive from David Mullins, beating Monalee seven and a half lengths into second.
Mullins struck for home a long way out and Kemboy shaped as being well suited by such tactics. On good ground, he covered the three miles in 6m 6.50s.
Kemboy, however, had won at Clonmel about six weeks earlier, so there were no doubts regarding his fitness.
Last Saturday Kemboy was making a belated start to the campaign, for well-publicised reasons, and Paul Townend clearly decided a repeat of what worked so well a year earlier was not a runner.
Kemboy, who was ridden forward when winning at Aintree and Punchestown, after the Savills Chase at Leopardstown twelve months ago, was unlikely to be seen to best advantage.
Saturday’s renewal was run on a surface not dissimilar to the previous year, yielding (good in places), and took a whopping 6m 18.40s to complete.
And then there was Presenting Percy, who is becoming increasingly frustrating. He went off favourite for last year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup, but didn’t lift a leg to trail in eighth. Pat Kelly’s charge made a creditable return when third to Min and Hardline in the John Durkan at Punchestown in early December, but did not build on that a week ago.
Held up by Davy Russell, he made hardly any progress in the straight and was only a disappointing fifth at the line.
I watched the race back again the other night and paused it as the field swung for home to face the final fence. It is no exaggeration to say you could have thrown a good-sized blanket over all eight of the runners.
Basically, this was a joke of a Savills Chase and I will be particularly surprised if the form proves in any way reliable.
Overall, the Christmas racing in Ireland was terrific and, we’ve said it before, the increasingly competitive nature of the game is a major plus. In many ways it produced more questions than answers. For instance, can we any longer consider Klassical Dream as a possible Champion Hurdle winner after it all went wrong when fifth of five, following a dreadful blunder at the fourth, behind stable companion, Sharjah, last Sunday?
Then there is Battleoverdoyen, who made it three from three over fences, also on Sunday, in a Grade 1. But this was a Grade 1 in name only after his main rivals, Minella Indo and Carefully Selected, defected due to the good ground.
I am not a fan of Battleoverdoyen and even less so watching him scramble home in front of Champagne Classic.
I felt nauseous when Carefully Selected didn’t meet the engagement and would have certainly taken my chances on him turning over the hotpot.
I was most disappointed with the display of Willie Mullins’ Allaho in a beginners’ chase on Saturday at Leopardstown and equally disappointed with the reaction of some television commentators.
Allaho was a useful novice hurdler last season, but has the size and scope to make a fine chaser and one would have thought this was his true calling.
But, unlike other observers, I thought he was awkward at a number of fences and seemed to lack technique. Then, as the race progressed, Allaho was inclined to jump to his left. We were told lack of fitness may have played its part in his eventual defeat behind well-backed stable companion, Easy Game.
That was perfectly acceptable, but you could not escape the feeling there may also have been a lack of bottle on show as well!
At Punchestown on Tuesday there was a result that was impossible to comprehend, as Gordon Elliott’s Gealach slammed Joseph O’Brien’s 6-4 favourite, Pasley, by four and a half lengths in a three-year-old maiden hurdle.
Now the pair had met at Cork 23 days earlier when Pasley (2-5) proved no match for Clemencia and was beaten 15 lengths into second.
But back in fourth, just over 19 lengths adrift of Pasley (12-1), was the aforementioned Gealach. He couldn’t reverse placings with Pasley at Punchestown, could he?
Now should anyone think there is an element of talking through the pocket here there isn’t. Pasley is not progressive and did not represent any sort of value.
But, that said, wherever he finished you’d have your life on him beating Gealach again. But Gealach, backed from 7-1 to 9-2, duly grew a fifth leg!
Perhaps, better ground at Punchestown was the reason for an improvement in form that was in excess of 20lbs.
It is well to note, though, that Gealach ran five times on the flat for John Oxx, between April and July, and never managed to finish closer than fifth. Sure, it’s a great old game entirely. The stewards did not ask any questions.