Weekend racing review: Why I'll be opposing Shishkin
Chad Yeomans on the latest horses to make it into his notebook, ones to watch this week and why the Betway Champion Chase will be the race of the Festival.
Betway Champion Chase
The Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase really is going to be the race of the Festival.
Racing fans long for clashes between the top equine stars and, on Wednesday 11 March – barring any misfortune – we are going to see Altior, Defi Du Seuil and Chacun Pour Soi go head-to-head-to-head.
Altior got back to winning ways at Newbury on Saturday and, after looking in trouble coming to the last, managed to produce a potent turn of foot that saw him run out a comfortable winner in the end.
Nico de Boinville didn’t sound overly enthused that the horse was back to his best, saying that there was “a lot left to work on.” From what I saw, I’d rather be against him on the day, but it would be special if he were to win the race for a third year in a row.
As a five-year-old carrying the weight that he did, the way Pic D’Orhy tanked through the race showed he clearly has plenty of talent. It won’t be the last Graded race he ever wins.
I spoke to his owner, Johnny De La Hay, at Sandown Park last week. He clearly adores this horse and suggested, as his trainer did after the race, that his career will really start when he goes over fences.
He’s another exciting prospect for the connections of Cyrname.
The Betway Sidney Banks Hurdle was won at Huntingdon on Thursday by the Nicky Henderson-trained Shishkin, who is now the favourite for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in just over four weeks’ time.
He is all speed and, I must admit, after seeing him in the parade ring beforehand, I was taken aback by how tall he was. For all the talent he has, young horses as leggy as he is can often get found out at Cheltenham in their early years.
I am more excited to see him go over fences next year with the Arkle his most-likely target.
Dynamite Dollars ran a superb race in the Game Spirit Chase on his first run for over a year.
I spoke with Paul Nicholls before the race, who suggested that he would come on plenty for the run and could either step up in trip or go for one of the Festival handicaps. Either way, there will be plenty of good days to come for his connections.
I was really taken by the way The Domino Effect travelled in a good novice hurdle at Kempton Park on Friday, staying on well to finish third. He’ll soon be winning handicaps and will be seen to best effect when he goes over larger obstacles in the future.
Ones to watch
The weights for the Grand National are announced on Tuesday afternoon, and it’s only after this ceremony each year that the race really starts to take shape.
I’m looking forward to seeing how the protagonists are going to be weighted and also trying to find an improver who looks well-handicapped.
I’ll be at Sandown Park on Friday where Betway are the official betting partner of Royal Artillery Day. Hopefully we see the return of Danny Kirwan in the opening novice hurdle.
It’s also the Betway Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton on Saturday, that should offer a few more clues towards what is a very cloudy-looking Champion Hurdle.
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