Prolific Black Corton delivered yet another master class in the Grade 2 Reynoldstown Chase at Ascot on Saturday.
With his coat gleaming with good health he looked amazing in the paddock before making all the running and beating two smart rivals in a style that fully advertised his claims in the RSA Chase at Cheltenham. The relentless rate of progress by Black Corton has astounded me all season. This was his eighth win over fences as a novice and his seventh with Bryony Frost who gets such a great tune out of him.
Early on in the summer and autumn we didn’t appreciate how good he was but we do now and we have every reason to believe in him. He took things to a new level on Saturday despite my concern before the race that he wasn’t spot on after a short mid winter break. Black Corton missed a couple of weeks after he trod on the bulb of his heel and pulled off a shoe when winning the Kauto Star Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day. We think he did it when swerving to avoid the fallen Fountains Windfall four out. We then gave him a break before freshening him up for the Reynoldstown which looked the ideal prep race for Cheltenham. Black Corton is a fantastic horse who is all Class and he will definitely come on for the run at Ascot as he always does after a break. Further ahead I already see him as a suitable candidate for the King George V1 Chase at Kempton next December.
Frodon ran a cracker to be third in the Grade 1 Betfair Chase considering he was too keen in the early stages of the race. I’d say getting into a battle in the first mile cost him. But for that he would have been a fair bit closer at the finish. He is likely to head next to Cheltenham for the Ryanair Chase although it’s possible we could miss the Festival with him and wait for the Grade 1 JLT Melling Chase at Aintree.
Virak won nicely at Haydock and is now qualified for the Foxhunters at Cheltenham in which we also run Wonderful Charm, Unioniste and last year’s winner Pacha Du Polder who is out at Doncaster on Wednesday.
It was frustrating to see Silsol part company with Noel Fehily at the first fence in the Grand National Trial at Haydock. Conditions were ideal for him and he proceeded to jump round riderless. Silsol might make a quick re-appearance in the Eider Chase at Newcastle on Saturday.
Nor did the cards go our way in the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton where Cliffs of Dover, on his comeback, shot off in front like a five furlong sprinter. He was never going to keep going at that pace and was eventually pulled up. Cliffs of Dover was fine on Sunday and I am tempted to find a race for him on the flat as he is only rated 64.
I’d like to end this bulletin with a heartfelt tribute to Zarkandar who was retired on Saturday after finishing fourth in the Rendlesham Hurdle at Haydock. That was always going to be his last race, win, lose or draw. Zarkandar has been a superstar for the yard down the years, winning no less than ten Graded races including four Grade 1’s starting with the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham back in 2011.
In his prime he was an awesome hurdler with a great attitude and he won so many big races for us, including, most memorably the Grade 1 Grand Prix D’Automne at Auteuil. During his long career at Ditcheat he earned in excess of £900,000 for his proud owners. Although Zarkandar still retains his enthusiasm in his homework at the age of eleven, he has lost a bit of pace, and it would be wrong to keep racing him now that the fire is not burning quite so brightly. We will find him a good home, as we do with all our horses.
Next weekend I will have plenty of runners including Cyrname and Art Mauresque at Kempton and one or two at Fontwell including Old Guard.
For all the latest news of my runners please turn to my Betfair column early on Friday evening.