James Knight’s Weekly Wrap for the Coral Champions Club
Instalment looks up to Gold standard
It was suggested in last week’s column that Last Instalment could propel himself into the Gold Cup picture with victory in the Irish Hennessy and Philip Fenton’s star did just that, beating the veteran, Tidal Bay, by some eight and a half lengths. Post-race, there was a big difference of opinion amongst firms on the horse – we at Coral were hugely impressed and made him a 6-1 clear third favourite, whereas Ladbrokes offered what looked a fairly dismissive 14-1.
His detractors will point to the fact that the Irish Hennessy was a slowly run affair and that the horse, who has recovered from serious injury, may need soft ground to be seen to best effect at Cheltenham. All that may be true, but there was something really eye-catching about this display. The manner in which he put his rivals under pressure from the front with such slick jumping was reminiscent of the mighty Denman in his prime. High praise you might say, but let’s not forget that Last Instalment has only been beaten once over fences – and that was on his previous run at Thurles, which can easily be forgiven on account of his long absence prior to the race. If the ground is only the easy side at Cheltenham (and given the recent levels of rain, that looks long odds-on) then he looks a massive contender in a race that lacks a superstar.
Annoying close ups – when will the TV directors listen?
If you read the Racing Post on a regular basis, you will doubtless have read opinion pieces from its editor, Bruce Millington, calling for an end to the pointless close ups of the leaders that television directors seem obsessed with showing viewers at the end of a horse race. And you may also have read the same sentiments in the national press, in ‘The Weekender’, in numerous online blogs and in dozens, if not hundreds, of tweets on Twitter. In short, this is an almost universally held view amongst racing fans.
Yet, nothing changes. In last week’s Irish Hennessy we were treated to a close up of Last Instalment when the race was beyond all doubt – leaving many each-way punters guessing as to what was happening to their selection until the race was all over. Most people who had backed Tidal Bay probably had no idea he had finished second until well after the race had finished. I can only imagine that the directors responsible have never had a bet in their life – and they certainly can’t read the papers. Let’s make this clear to them one more time: viewers have absolutely no interest in ‘arty’ close ups when a race is still in progress. We want to watch the action and to see all of the horses that are still in contention. It really is very simple – let’s just hope that someone who has some influence actually listens for once.
WEEKEND NAP – The Stuart Williams yard is a shrewd operation and one can infer from the prices at which NATIONAL SERVICE (2.50 Lingfield) has been sent off on his first two starts that he is considered better than a 70 horse by his handler. And the racetrack evidence backs that up too – he ran out an impressive and well backed winner of a maiden at Kempton on his first start and shaped far better than the result at the same track last time. In a very slowly run three runner affair, he was notably keen in the early stages and only just failed in a mad dash to the line, his inexperience as much as anything costing him the race. In what promises to be a much more truly run race tomorrow, he is strongly fancied to show us that he is well ahead of this mark.
WEEKEND BISMARCK – CLUB HOUSE (4.30 Lingfield) has an excellent chance here in theory, having won here over this course and distance on Wednesday from a 2lb higher mark. However, there are reasons to oppose him at what will be a short price tomorrow. While the horse is in rich vein of form, this will be his third start in 9 days and it is possible that those efforts will start to catch up with him. Plus, despite the lower handicap mark, this looks a tougher race than Wednesday’s – Club House will be running against stronger horses and his pilot, George Buckell, will be riding against a much better standard of jockey.
Venetia Williams can’t do anything wrong at the moment and Rigadin De Beauchene can continue the trend in the Grand National Trail (2.55 Haydock). A slow learner who has been improving considerably with age, he was probably over the top on his final two starts last season. He came
second in the race last year off the same mark and this is likely to have been the target for a long time. He revels in the mud and comes here fresher than most.
After his win in the Betfair Hurdle last week Ryan Hatch must still be on cloud nine. Tomorrow he has another chance to grab the headlines on Kaylif Aramis (3.15 Ascot). He should appreciate the slight drop in trip and with the yard now in better form than when last seen, he can put in a much improved effort.