Beef has not had meaty test

IF Beef Or Salmon never wins another race, he will owe connections nothing.

The ten-year-old has run in 29 National Hunt races, finished first in 14, eight of them Grade Ones, and his win and place prizemoney, by my reckoning, is in excess of €700,000.

He is, by any standards, a top class chaser and, yet, even in a moderate Gold Cup, the doubts persist about his ability to do the business in a short few weeks.

Last Sunday, Beef Or Salmon added over €100,000 to his ever-growing total in what could only be described as a damp squib of a contest.

The outcome was so predictable, with Beef Or Salmon trouncing Hedgehunter, who in turn trounced the rest, that it was as boring a Grade One as has ever been run in this country.

On Monday, I wrote that he made a very bad mistake five from home when travelling at a married man’s pace.

There is real evidence that was the case and, I think, we can regard this Hennessy, in terms of a Cheltenham Gold Cup trial, as a total non-event.

You have to believe this was a very poorly contested race when you consider Beef Or Salmon covered the three miles in just over four seconds faster than it took General Montcalm in the hunters chase.

Now if General Montcalm is within four seconds of Beef Or Salmon then you could nearly make a case for running him in the Gold Cup or, at worst, that he’s a certainty for the Foxhunters. I doubt anyone really thinks such is the case.

Had a look at other years to compare the Hennessy with the hunters chase. Twelve months ago, for instance, Rule Supreme, who beat a below-par Beef Or Salmon in that Hennessy, ran the three miles over 20 seconds faster than Lord Of The Turf.

In 2004, Florida Pearl, then a 12-year-old and having the final race of his career, was almost 11 seconds faster than Never Compromise.

But, perhaps, the most significant time of all was Imperial Call’s in 1996. He was 14 seconds faster than high-class hunter, Elegant Lord.

Conclusion, Sunday’s race told us little we didn’t already know, confirming that, in the main, Beef Or Salmon is now jumping well, but still capable of the odd horrendous blunder.

In any case, he will go to Cheltenham with prospects as good as any and better than most. I just wish, however, he was travelling with a greater test under his belt.

lLAST year’s Hennessy meeting produced no subsequent winner at Cheltenham and you’d have to wonder if it will be the same this time round.

Our Ben’s inability to go with the pace down the back in the Moriarty Chase was surprising and he will have no chance in the SunAlliance if hitting that type of flat spot.

Willie Mullins said afterwards he was looking forward to him running at Cheltenham on better ground and with a further three and a half furlongs or so to travel.

One aspect of the race puzzled me and that was why he raced wide of the field for much of the journey, given that he showed a marked tendency to jump to his right.

Mister Hight did his job well enough in the juvenile hurdle, but you couldn’t say it was a massive Cheltenham boost.

He has a real touch of class, you cannot doubt that, but whether his jumping will hold up on faster ground remains to be seen.

* THERE’S an old adage which says if you think you have three or four Derby horses then you actually don't have any.

It is something worth keeping in mind as Willie Mullins gets set to launch a ferocious attack on the Cheltenham Bumper.

Before getting too carried away, we should take into account what Mullins has done for the last two years.

A year ago he ran only Missed That and, despite failing to settle for a lot of the trip, he still proved good enough.

The previous year, Mullins fired five shots at the target, after his bumper horses had carried all before them at home.

Granny Kellys Tart ran out and the others finished 6th (Knocknabooly), 12th (Gayle Abated), 13th (Major Vernon) and 16th (Our Ben).

Just a thought!

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