Indeed could it pay to be two wise at Cheltenham? In Part 1 I tried to work out whether Yanworth in the Champion Hurdle is a play or a lay? In Part 2 I will consider whether Yorkhill should be 11/8 favourite for the JLT Novice Chase that kicks off Thursday’s programme?
Yorkhill unseated in his first run in an Irish PtP and in the intervening twenty six months and ten races he has been beaten just the once when 4th to Don’t Touch It in the G1 Champion Novice hurdle over two miles at the Punchestown Festival last April. He has collected three G1’s, the Tolworth at Sandown, the Neptune at Cheltenham and the Mersey at Aintree. He is unbeaten when going further than a bare two miles and this season has won both his novice chases. He has frequently been described as a “monster”. Ridden by Ruby Walsh and trained by Willie Mullins, both masters of their art. So what is the problem?
He can’t jump. That’s not strictly true because once he’s really racing he’s pretty good at it but give him time to maybe think about it and he goes left and that’s 45 degree left! Recently at a Cheltenham preview JJ Codd said that the PtP unseat was because he jumped left and ran into one of those large round straw bales. The Codd-Father said he was the thickest horse he knew. I have no doubt that this horse has a magnificent engine and that 2m 5f is at the bottom of his range distance-wise and indeed he could develop into a Gold Cup contender but after two novice outings against limited opposition and a very public schooling session where he carted Ruby and the start and at best was “sticky” at the first three fences could I back him at 11/8 to win the JLT Novices Chase at Cheltenham next Thursday?
Leaving his questionable fencing to one side two other factors to consider. Firstly does Yorkhill’s form stack up and secondly what is the strength of the opposition?
Yorkhill won a beginners chase at Fairyhouse and a G3 Novice chase at Leopardstown and of the horses he beat two have won handicaps off OR101 and a novice chase and is now rated OR125. Nothing to get excited about but on a line through Gangster a tenuous case could be made that he has run to his hurdle mark of OR154. However when over the smaller obstacles he never ran against a novice rated higher than OR150,with one exception, and that hurdle mark is based around his defeat of an OR158 rated beast here at Cheltenham in last year’s Neptune novice hurdle over 2m 5f. That horse was of course the other ‘Y’, Yanworth!!
So could any of those taking Yorkhill on run to OR154+? Have any of them got winning form at G2 or above? I will give you three to consider.
POLITOLOGUE Paul Nicholls fine stamp of a grey has always looked a chaser. Enough over hurdles to be sent off at just 9/1 for last Festival’s Coral Cup the horse has really come into his own over fences. He won comfortably at Haydock C2 and Ascot G2 level and was then second to the very promising Waiting Patiently (who sadly misses the Festival) failing by a length and a quarter to give 3lbs away in the G2 back at Haydock before hacking up at Kempton in a C2 in his last outing. He is a bold, sound jumper and the handicapper has given him a rating of OR152.
TOP NOTCH Nicky Henderson’s pocket rocket was an OR158 rated hurdler finishing fifth to Annie Power in last season’s Champion Hurdle and to the trainers surprise and delight has taken well to fencing being unbeaten in four goes. The first two were basic egg and spoon affairs at Plumpton (stands to collect a £50K bonus if he wins) and Warwick but stepping up in trip at Ascot in a C2 he looked destined for better things and duly bagged the G1 2m 4f Scilly Isles at Sandown beating Baron Alco in “impressive” fashion. So he is a G1 chasing winner who jumps nimbly with an OR152 chasing rating.
DISKO Noel Meade has always told anyone who would listen that this horse was a Grade 1 superstar once he saw a fence, simply the apple of his eye. Disko opened his chasing career with a win at Punchestown that was as clumsy as it was easy. Stepped straight into G2 company in the Florida Pearl he was third sent off 13/8F in a race run in thick fog and won by A Toi Phil. His next race was in the influential G1 3m J.P Moriarty at Leopardstown and in probably the strongest novice chase run in Ireland this season he was again third beaten a length by Our Duke (sidesteps Cheltenham) and Coney Island (misses Cheltenham with an injury) and Disko led over the last! Last time out in Ireland’s major novice chase trial for Cheltenham, the G1 2m 5f Flogas at Leopardstown, he comfortably turned the form round with Our Duke and A Toi Phil with a splendid front running performance. I think Noel Meade would have liked to have gone RSA (so would my bank manager!!) 2017 and Gold Cup 2018 but looking back at the Moriarty and the Flogas this trip looks ideal. So Disko has won and been placed in G1 and has an OR153.
Got a feeling this isn’t going to surprise anyone but I’m quite happy to take on Yorkhill who I believe is over-hyped, over-priced and over here!
Let’s play my favourite game of visualisation. Disko sets out make all, Politologue keeps him honest with the two hooded greys setting the fractions. Yorkhill sits behind them with Top Notch jumping slickly and letting the three in front get on with it and then we turn for home with two for jump….
Scenario 1. The two greys have been racing from too far out, Ruby nips though on the inside between the last two and despite lugging left at the last storms up the hill to victory with Top Notch’s class carrying him through to second.
Scenario 2. Yorkhill has made too many mistakes and is too far back whilst Top Notch has struggled with the bigger fences at this relentless pace and the two greys have it between them with Disko outstaying Politologue up the Cheltenham hill.
Scenario 3. Much the same as scenario 2 except Top Notch has handled the fences and uses his speed to pass the two greys in a pulsating run to the line.
Scenario 4. Two of the four fall, unseat or pull up and the race is won in a canter.
Scenario 5. This is left field and based on the defeat of Dawn Approach in the 2013 Epsom Derby. At the start in this year’s JLT all the jockeys tuck in behind Ruby Walsh, allow him to go first and Yorkhill will self-destruct over the first three fences that come up quite quickly before the first bend by bolting, not settling, jumping violently left etc. etc. The quicker they set off, the quicker Yorkhill may get into a rhythm and the better his chance is!
Whatever scenario plays out IF Yorkhill is settled in the box seat as a jockey I would keep as tight to that rail turning for home as I could to ensure Ruby has to pull out and can’t jump the last two flush to the inside wing!
Now personally I’m all over Scenario 2 and after twenty years I’m delighted to be talking about Disko again. You never can be YY!