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Timeform Awards: The winners

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We reveal the winners for the Timeform Awards for the 2023/24 jumps season.

TOP CHASER: GALOPIN DES CHAMPS (179)

Galopin des Champs landed the odds to emulate Willie Mullins’ other Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Al Boum Photo and win chasing’s blue riband for a second consecutive year. He stood out on form so didn’t quite need to run up to the same level he’d shown at Cheltenham in 2023. His very best efforts of the season, therefore, came at Leopardstown in the winter, notably in the Savills Chase.

Going into that race after defeats in his previous two starts, Galopin des Champs was right back to his best, powering away from main market rival Gerri Colombe to win by 23 lengths, the runner-up finishing much closer when also second to him at Cheltenham. Galopin des Champs followed that with a convincing beating of Fastorslow (173+) when also winning the Irish Gold Cup for the second year running.

That looks the race that best represents how the pair measure up against each other. Fastorslow unseated in the Cheltenham Gold Cup but had a below-par Galopin des Champs behind him on the two other occasions they met in 2023/24, conditions more in Fastorslow’s favour in both the John Durkan Punchestown Chase in November and, for the second year running, in the Punchestown Gold Cup.

Galopin des Champs’ stablemate El Fabiolo (173) was the season’s second highest-rated chaser of the season and the best over two miles. However, he lost his unbeaten record over fences in the Queen Mother Champion Chase where a bad mistake at the fifth left Paul Townend with no option but to pull him up. Odds on again in the Celebration Chase at Sandown, he wasn’t at his best against the slicker-jumping Jonbon who turned the tables on him from the previous season’s Arkle.

Under softer conditions, El Fabiolo had begun his campaign with a couple of top-drawer performances in the Hilly Way Chase at Cork and the Dublin Chase at Leopardstown, with marginally his best performance coming in the latter event. His best effort of the 2023/24 campaign, in the Dublin Chase, was worth a Timeform performance rating of 173, though his Sporting Life Arkle victory the previous season means his Timeform master rating remains 174.

TOP HURDLER: STATE MAN (167)

Much like his predecessor as Ireland’s top hurdler Honeysuckle, State Man continues to rack up the wins in a weak hurdling division. That was made all the weaker by the absence of Constitution Hill, the only horse to have beaten State Man in his 13 completed starts since joining Willie Mullins, for much of the season and most notably from the Champion Hurdle.

That helped State Man go one better at Cheltenham this time, but otherwise his campaign was a ‘copy and paste’ of the previous season as he completed a clean sweep of Ireland’s open Grade 1 two-mile hurdles in the Morgiana, Matheson, Irish Champion Hurdle and Punchestown Champion Hurdle which brought his total of Grade 1 wins to ten.

He faced more rivals at Cheltenham than he did for any of his Irish victories, all of those gained in four-runner fields, but his two Leopardstown wins were just about the pick of his efforts, impressing most in the Irish Champion Hurdle which he won by five and a half lengths. Teahupoo (163) was the leading staying hurdler, though his good record fresh meant he was campaigned sparingly, winning the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse for the second year running and then going two places better than the year before in the Stayers’ Hurdle. He too ended an unbeaten campaign with victory at Punchestown.

Besides Teahupoo, trainer Gordon Elliott and owners Robcour were also represented by Irish Point (162) who looked set for a staying campaign himself when winning the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown over three miles but dropped back to two miles for some good seconds behind State Man at both Cheltenham and Punchestown. Also rated 162 were top novice Ballyburn (see below) and Impaire Et Passe who was placed behind both Teahupoo and State Man earlier on but gained his two wins over two and a half miles at the end of the season in the Aintree Hurdle and Select Hurdle at Sandown.

TOP NOVICE CHASER: GAELIC WARRIOR (169)

Performance of the season in novice chases came from the Arkle winner Gaelic Warrior, the sixth winner of the race in the last ten runnings for Willie Mullins. Fitted with a hood for the first time, Gaelic Warrior gave a polished display dropping back to two miles, neither his edgy demeanour beforehand nor the fact that he was going left-handed (he tends to jump right) proving a problem as he quickened clear to win with something in hand by eight and a half lengths from Found A Fifty who landed his second Grade 1 of the season in the Maghull Novices’ Chase at Aintree the following month.

Gaelic Warrior also won the Faugheen Novice Chase at Limerick in December but his bid for a third Grade 1 win of the campaign in the Barberstown Castle Novice Chase at Punchestown was thwarted by stablemate Il Etait Temps (164) who had finished only third behind Gaelic Warrior in the Arkle. Il Etait Temps had also won the Manifesto Novices’ Chase in the meantime, but Gaelic Warrior wasn’t at his best at Punchestown where he wasn’t ridden with the same dash as he had been at Cheltenham.

Fact To File (164p) was another stablemate to get the better of Gaelic Warrior when the pair faced off in a match for the Ladbrokes Novice Chase at the Dublin Racing Festival, though on that occasion he seemed amiss, already beaten when unseating at the last. In any case, Fact To File, who impressed with his jumping going straight over fences from bumpers, looks a top-class staying chaser in the making as he went on to complete a hat-trick in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham, but his wide-margin success in a beginners chase at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting was actually his best effort on the figures.

Fact To File’s owner J. P. McManus had another of the top novices Corbetts Cross (164), he too a Cheltenham Festival winner, in the National Hunt Novices’ Chase, but running his best outside novice company when third to Gerri Colombe in the Bowl at Aintree.

TOP NOVICE HURDLER: BALLYBURN (162)

Ballyburn looks one of the most exciting prospects in the Mullins yard, proving the season’s top novice hurdler by some margin having already won his only point and both his bumpers at Punchestown. After being beaten by the smart Firefox on his hurdles debut at Fairyhouse, Ballyburn went on to land the odds with something in hand in his four subsequent starts which included Grade 1 victories at the Dublin Racing Festival, Cheltenham and Punchestown.

While he’d quickly settled the issue when dropped back to two miles at the Dublin Racing Festival, Ballyburn was stepped up in trip again at Cheltenham for the Gallagher Novices’ Hurdle (Baring Bingham) where he produced his best effort of the season with a decisive 13-length victory over outsider Jimmy du Seuil in a race where his stable had the first five home in the field of seven.

Ballyburn cemented his position as the season’s top novice at Punchestown, a win which took Mullins past Dermot Weld’s record for most number of career victories in Ireland. That was just another of Mullins’ achievements in an outstanding season in which he became champion trainer in Britain for the first time (in addition to his 18th Irish title), as well as passing the milestone of hundred winners at the Cheltenham Festival.

Ballyburn looks a chasing type but stablemate Mystical Power (153) is more likely to remain over hurdles in a bid to emulate his dam the Champion Hurdle winner Annie Power. Like Ballyburn, Mystical Power has only been beaten once, when runner-up in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, but went to Grade 1 success at both Aintree (Top Novices’ Hurdle) and Punchestown  (KPMG Champion Novice). After finishing second to Ballyburn at the Dublin Racing Festival, Slade Steel (151) improved again to beat Mystical Power and Firefox in the Supreme but couldn’t confirm that form when third behind the same pair at Punchestown.

TOP MARE: DINOBLUE (156)

Completing a clean sweep of category winners among the divisions for the Mullins stable was top mare Dinoblue who developed into a very smart two-mile chaser. Having ended the previous campaign winning a handicap at the Punchestown Festival, she made a successful switch to graded company with wins in the Poplar Square Chase at Naas and the Paddy’s Rewards Club Chase at Leopardstown before the turn of the year.

There was no disgrace in her finding only top-class stablemate El Fabiolo too good in the Dublin Chase, nor when a creditable third behind Banbridge and the Queen Mother Champion Chase winner Captain Guinness in the Champion Chase at Punchestown. On paper, the Mares’ Chase at Cheltenham in between should have been an easier task but she had to concede 5 lb to strong-staying winner Limerick Lace over two and a half miles, nonetheless emerging best at the weights.

Stablemate Lossiemouth (154p), on the other hand, outclassed her rivals in the Mares’ Hurdle at the Festival, following up her course win in the International Hurdle, and took her career record to eight out of nine when an easy winner of the Mares Champion Hurdle at Punchestown. She deserves a crack at the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham next March, her rating higher than that of Luccia (152) who ran a career best to finish third at 33/1 in the latest edition of that race at a time when Nicky Henderson’s stable was out of sorts. That was a big step up from handicap company, having won the Betfair Exchange Trophy at Ascot on her previous start.

RACE OF THE SEASON: IRISH GOLD CUP

The leading races of the season were judged based on the average Timeform master rating of the first three home, so contests involving Galopin des Champs, the highest-rated horse in action last term, and his old rival Fastorslow, a top-class performer in his own right, dominated the standings.

The Irish Gold Cup (average rating 173), in which Galopin des Champs beat Fastorslow by four and a half lengths in perhaps the most satisfactory of their clashes, topped the standings as it also featured the top-class I Am Maximus in third. I Am Maximus ran well without being able to land a blow in the Irish Gold Cup but demonstrated his ability when bolting up by seven and a half lengths in the Grand National from a BHA mark of 159, putting up the best performance in that race this century.

Fastorslow led home a below-par Galopin des Champs in the Punchestown Gold Cup (172) in which King George VI Chase winner Hewick grabbed third place, while the John Durkan (171), in which Appreciate It split Fastorslow and Galopin des Champs, also had a high average rating.

The Cheltenham Gold Cup (171), generally considered the most prestigious event in the jumps calendar, would have topped this list had Fastorslow not unseated and finished at least placed. Even so, a trio of top-class chasers in Galopin des Champs, Gerri Colombe and Corach Rambler came to the fore.

BIG IMPROVER: YEAH MAN

Willie Mullins understandably took the plaudits following an unparalleled campaign but it was also a notable one for his compatriot Gavin Cromwell who fared especially well with the runners he sent across to Britain, winning two races at the Cheltenham Festival with Limerick Lace (Mares' Chase) and her brother Inothewayurthikin (Kim Muir).

Another big winner in Britain for Cromwell last season was Yeah Man who landed the Grand National Trial at Haydock after finishing runner-up in the Silver Cup at Ascot on his previous starts. Those efforts represented remarkable improvement from Yeah Man who had been beaten on his five starts over fences in the previous campaign and resulted in his Timeform master rating rising from 101+ to 139. He was only ninth in the Irish Grand National when last seen but shaped much better than that result might suggest and will remains of interest in staying handicaps.

Other big improvers, who had already run in the discipline in the previous season, were Johnny Mac and Anglers Crag.

Johnny Mac hadn't shown much in four starts for Tom Gretton but thrived after joining Matt Sheppard, winning all three starts for his new yard, including from well out of the weights on his final start of the campaign at Leicester. His rating rose from 68 to 94p, with the p indicating that he's likely to do better.

Anglers Crag had been beaten four times over fences for David Pipe the previous campaign but thrived after joining Brian Ellison and undergoing a breathing operation, racking up a four-timer and increasing his rating from 104 to 132+.

 
 

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ASCOT 15:45

Saturday 22 June
1. ART POWER (IRE) 131
David Allan silk David Allan
Tim Easterby
4. KINROSS 130
Rossa Ryan silk Rossa Ryan horse for course
Ralph Beckett hot trainer
9. SHOULDVEBEENARING 129
Sean Levey silk Sean Levey
Richard Hannon hot trainer
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1st Ross Coakley silk 1. WONDER KID (IRE) 8/131.61f
2nd Dylan Hogan silk 3. TURING 14/115
J: Ross Coakley  
T: Hugo Palmer  
All 7 ran.
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1st Adam Farragher silk 1. GRANDLAD (IRE) 2/13
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2nd Cieren Fallon silk ½ 3. RHETORICAL 11/102.1f
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T: Ed Walker  
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