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Ratings Update: Reaction to I Am Maximus, Ferny Hollow and more

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John Ingles rounds up the Timeform ratings reaction from Kempton, Southwell, Ireland and the Saudi Cup card.

Jumps

Some of the most significant jumping action of the weekend took place in Ireland so we’ll start there with the Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse on Saturday. All four runners hold Grand National entries and the first two certainly acquitted themselves well with Aintree in mind. Last year’s Irish Grand National winner I Am Maximus (161+ from 159) further enhanced Willie Mullins’ excellent record in the Bobbyjo, running out an emphatic winner by 14 lengths from last year’s Grand National runner-up Vanillier (153 from 156), conceding 12 lb to the runner-up.

The winner has his own way of jumping fences, going markedly left on occasions here and making a mistake at the last but will head to Aintree with leading claims on form having been allotted 11-2 when the weights were announced earlier in the week. Vanillier (10-8 at Aintree) had cheekpieces back on for the first time this season and took a big step back in the right direction towards a bid to go one better than last year.

The Newlands Chase at Naas a day later saw the successful return to action, after more than two years off, of the very talented but also fragile Ferny Hollow (163+ from 163?). While this was his sixth win on the bounce, it was four years ago this very weekend, in the bumper at Fairyhouse, that he began that winning streak, which included winning the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham on his next start and a Grade 1 novice chase at Leopardstown in December 2021 which was when he was last seen. He was favoured by the race conditions, getting 7 lb from last year’s winner Rebel Gold (147 from 136+), and ran out an easy winner after travelling strongly, though connections were quick to downplay a crack at next month’s Champion Chase and a potential clash with stablemate El Fabiolo.

Naas also staged the last of the Pertemps Qualifiers, and while the lightly-weighted winner Noble Birth (126 from 117) would be doubtful to get into the Final, Gordon Elliott’s progressive novice Cleatus Poolaw (remains 136p) shaped encouragingly with Cheltenham in mind three and a half lengths back in second, the longer trip and anticipated stronger gallop there likely to play to his strengths.

At Kempton small fields were a feature of all three graded contests. But despite that, the Adonis Juvenile Hurdle had an above-average winner in Kalif du Berlais (138p  from 137p) who had to work hard to maintain his unbeaten record but responded well after getting caught out when the tempo lifted to beat fellow improver Givemefive (132p from 129p) by three quarters of a length conceding him 5 lb. Kalif du Berlais is unlikely to take up his Triumph Hurdle entry and in any case is already very much a chaser on looks.

The first two in the Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle had been placed behind Supreme contender Jeriko du Reponet in a similar event at Doncaster last time, and while winner Lump Sum (138p from 129p) won’t be joining him in the Supreme, he’s building a really positive profile over hurdles and would be a possible for one of the Festival handicaps after drawing away on the run-in to beat Fiercely Proud (131 from 128) by four and a half lengths.

There were smart performances from the pair who pulled clear in the Pendil Novices’ Chase, with Blow Your Wad (147 from 141) getting the better of Tahmuras (146 from 144) by three-quarters of a length. Both look to have a future in good handicaps, the winner making it three wins from as many visits to Kempton, while the runner-up might prove better going left-handed (jumped that way) and kept on well as though he’ll be effective at further.

The Coral Trophy Handicap Chase was another well-contested renewal in which the complexion changed rapidly after the last where Forward Plan (139 from 136), narrowly beaten in the Great Yorkshire Handicap Chase at Doncaster the time before, produced an irresistible surge on the run-in to collar Al Dancer (154 from 152) who ran a cracker from the front under 12-0 and looked like making all until the final strides.

Incidentally, third-placed Bowtogreatness (remains 134) was the second horse on the card after Blow Your Wad to run well having finished well behind Ginny’s Destiny in the Timeform Novices’ Handicap Chase at Cheltenham last month.

Newcastle’s big handicap chase, the Eider, on the other hand, lacked the same quality but that’s taking nothing away from winner Anglers Crag (132 from 129) who has now won all four of his races since joining Brian Ellison this season. He did well to recover from a blunder two out, while Tommie Beau (remains 135), a four-time winner himself this season, came out best at the weights in third.

Flat

Southwell is the new home for the Winter Derby, adding an extra furlong to the race formerly run over a mile and a quarter at Lingfield. This went to the only four-year-old in the field Military Order (119 from 116) – brother to a ‘real’ Derby winner in Adayar – and while not as good as him, he could be the type Godolphin will do well with abroad. Favourite and last year’s winner Lord North (122 from 123) was a length back in second, conceding race fitness and first run to the winner, and it would be some performance if he can land a fourth Dubai Turf next month.

The Hever Sprint Stakes, a listed contest over five furlongs, has joined the Winter Derby in the move from Lingfield, and went to Diligent Harry (119 from 117) who proved better than ever down in trip and under a penalty though will probably have to be better again if he’s to follow up last year’s win in the All-Weather Sprint Final given that will be run as a handicap this year, while he also needs another run to qualify.

Earlier this month, Diligent Harry beat Annaf in another listed contest at Lingfield and Mick Appleby’s sprinter was also successful on the same day though earned considerably more, the best part of a million pounds, in the Group 2 1351 Turf Sprint on the Saudi Cup undercard. Running over a slightly longer trip than usual (nearly seven furlongs) Annaf had to run right up to his best (118) in a race where Japanese horses took three of the next five places.

Another huge prize for a British stable came in the Group 2 Neom Turf Cup in which Richard Fahey’s Spirit Dancer (remains 119), already the winner of a similar event in Bahrain late last year, came out best in a bunched finish with clear form pick Luxembourg (remains 126) some way below his best in fourth. Aidan O’Brien had better luck with last year’s St Leger fourth Tower of London (119 from 118p) who got the better of British-trained stayers Enemy (remains 117) and Giavellotto (remains 118) in another close finish in the Red Sea Turf Handicap.

As for the world’s richest race, the Saudi Cup itself, US-trained horses took three of the first four places but favourite and last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic winner White Abarrio wasn’t among them, finishing well down the field. Victory went instead to Senor Buscador (122 from 120) who had finished only seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Classic but turned the tables on three of those who’d finished ahead him of at Santa Anita, including 2023 Dubai World Cup winner Ushba Tesoro (remains 123) who failed by only a head to become Japan’s second consecutive winner of the Saudi Cup.

 
 

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NEWMARKET (ROWLEY) 15:35

Thursday 18 April
5. HAATEM (IRE) 1st
Sean Levey silk Sean Levey
Richard Hannon
4. EBEN SHADDAD (USA) 2nd
Kieran Shoemark silk Kieran Shoemark
John & Thady Gosden
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