Black Corton could be heading for the Cheltenham Gold Cup after an encouraging run into second place behind Top Notch at Kempton on Saturday over a trip short of his best. The Gold Cup looks a more sensible option as I suspect they will go a bit too fast for him in the Ryanair Chase. We know Black Corton stays well and in an open year it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him keeping on to be fourth or fifth.
My fears that the handicapper had over reacted by raising Darling Maltaix a harsh 12 lbs to a mark of 134 after his four length victory at Ascot in December were borne out by the horse’s display in finishing fifth in the Lanzarote Hurdle. He had been well beaten off a mark of 117 three times before finally winning his first hurdle race at Ascot at the tenth attempt off 122 which made the assessor’s decision seem all the more ludicrous. I stand by my view that he should not have gone up by more than 7lbs. Darling Maltaix did well to finish fifth at Kempton after encountering traffic problems. He is not going to win a Handicap off his current mark and if there is any justice he should really now be dropped 5lbs. We will find out tomorrow what the handicapper has done.
At Warwick Secret Investor travelled and jumped very well before being outstayed by the highly rated OK Corral in the Listed Novice Chase. He’s a good horse who can get better over fences coming back a quarter mile or so in trip.
I have been following with great interest and some puzzlement the ruling by the BHA that jumps horses must be shod behind from February 1st. If not, their trainers face being fined. While I rarely run one without hind shoes it is surely up to individual trainers to decide as they know their horses best. You could not find two more experienced horsemen than Peter Easterby and his brother Mick and I fully understand why they and Harvey Smith are dead against the new ruling. I rather share Mick’s view that the BHA have wasted lots of time and money in compiling a lengthy study on the subject. What a pity they didn’t consult the Easterbys.
Surely trainers who are professionals should have the right to do as they wish on matters like this without having the BHA dictate to them. It all seems so petty and unnecessary.
We are starting to get busy again after a quiet couple of weeks and will have some runners this weekend. Diego Du Charmil is one of three horses taking on Altior in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot where If You Say Run is a contender for the £50,000 Grade 2 Mares Hurdle and San Benedeto goes for the bet365 Chase.
We will also be running Present Man and Vicente in the new £50,000 Portman Chase at Taunton.
For the latest news on my weekend runners please turn to my Betfair column which goes live late on Friday afternoon.