The French Connection
Not a lot of peripheral news this week to bang on about this week unless you count the petition against Tony being knighted but that’s not for this space to discuss so moving swiftly on…
I thought it was interesting in the week that sees the final of the Veteran’s chase series at Sandown Park that the grand old campaigner Vieux Lion Rouge has been retired after pulling up on his latest outing. What a pleasure he must have been to own. He ran in five Grand Nationals and won two Becher Chases. According to the Racing Post statisticians he jumped 242 National fences in a row before that run came to an end when he fell at the 20th in last season’s renewal…some feat. He was bought at an Arqana sale in Deauville and his owner reckoned that they were fortunate that the gelding came up for sale at lunchtime and perhaps the French were a little distracted…. plus ca change. Let’s hope the gelding has the long and happy retirement he thoroughly deserves.
Keeping the French theme, good news from across the Channel for a change where James Reveley, grandson of the famous Mary, regained the jump-jockey’s championship which he had first won in 2016. He managed 102 winners in the calendar year and secured over £4m of prize money for connections. Compare that with the £1.9m from 152 wins for Britain’s champion Harry Skelton in his 2020-21 title winning season. Umm…
James realised he would struggle to make the top in this country and moved to France in 2016 since when he has never looked back. His quiet style of riding is well suited to French races where the pace is less frenetic, and they only seem to quicken up from the back of the last. He has just purchased a 46-box yard in Chantilly where he intends to train from when his riding days are over. Bonne chance James.
Sandown has a good card on Saturday which centres round the Grade 1 Tolworth Novices Hurdle. This contest sees the reappearance of Nicky Henderson’s next big thing Constitution Hill who is already second favourite for the Supreme Novices at the Cheltenham festival. He will be short odds-on Saturday, but he could go right to the top.
There are three good handicap chases on the support card, but I have mentally filed the Veteran’s Chase under too difficult so let’s have a look at the other two.
Selection – 1:15 Sandown – Read Nicky Henderson’s Unibet Blog Handicap Chase
The first at 1.15pm is a 2m4f class 3 0-130 with a field of 8. I backed top weight Farinet over course and distance last season when he won well. However, he let the side down last month in the Racing Post chase when he was pulled up, he was later reported to have lost a right hind show whether this was the reason for his poor display who knows. He looks to me like a horse who will be happier in small fields so Saturday should suit but at the forecast 9/4 I can leave him alone. At the early prices it’s another French bred who takes my eye David Pipe’s Red Happy who will be having his first run over British fences. He said au revoir to France with two wins the last being at Fontainebleau in November. It will be fascinating to see how the chestnut adapts, some do some don’t, at around the advertised 7/1 I am prepared to take a chance.
Having been involved a while ago in a chaser that we ran first time over here at Cheltenham it becomes clear the French chasers jump a lot lower and brush through the fence tops if they can. Lets just say the mare we ran probably brought forward Seamus Durack’s retirement by a few years… He certainly earned his riding fee that day.
1. Red Happy
Selection – 1:50 Sandown – Unibet Horserace Betting Operator Of The Year Handicap Chase
The other race is at 1.50 a class 2 0-145 over near enough two miles. Only 7 runners this time but still a trappy little contest. More with the heart than the head I have decided to maintain the Entente Cordiale for one more race. I fancied Monsieur Lecoq for an Ascot handicap in December where he was annoyingly taken out at the declaration stage. He showed up a couple of weeks later at Lingfield where he managed a disappointing last of seven. Perhaps he was concerned about the ongoing fishing dispute or covid passports, but he ran no sort of race. He has never been unplaced at Sandown in three visits… don’t all snigger at once… and at the early 9/1-10/1 he’s backable. The likely favourite Gunsight Ridge has form tied in with Venetia Williams fast improving L’Homme Presse which gives him a solid chance, but I will stick with the Gallic option.
1. Monsieur Lecoq
As I said earlier, I can’t see an edge in the Veteran’s chase by the nature of the beast nothing will be unexposed, but it will still be a grand spectacle as there are some good old lads entered. Nothing from “Oop North” which is a shame as we managed the winner last year in Seeyouatmidnight for Sandy Thomson and Ryan Mania. If someone gave me a tenner, I would probably plump for Rolling Dylan as I am a big fan of Michael (Irish version) Nolan and I think Phillip Hobbs’ horses are just coming into form.
So, a combination of heart and head what a recipe for…
Whatever the outcome at least the nights are getting lighter…
Have a good one.
Again, good luck throughout the winter. If you’re interested in racehorse ownership, take a look at the syndicate’s available shares.