Dessie blooms at Ascot
Can it really be thirty years ago? Three decades since we witnessed one of the greatest races ever staged at Ascot?
Desert Orchid came into the inaugural running of the Victor Chandler Chase, a handicap in those days, as favourite, even though he was giving twenty two pounds and more to his rivals.
He had been unbeaten so far in the 1988/89 season having won the Tingle Creek, also a handicap back then, and his second King George. Dessie and Panto Prince jumped the last together but Panto got away from it better.
Somehow the legendary grey got back up to snatch it on the line. A remarkable achievement. That he went on that season to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup over a mile further, and on ground he hated shows what a superstar he was.
Waterloo Boy and Well Chief also lumped big weights to victory in the races handicap phase and, since it became a Grade One, it has been won by some very decent horses.
Master Minded, twice, Sire De Grugy, Sprinter Sacre, and, for the last three seasons, Un De Sceaux. The last named will not be defending his title so that means Altior will only have two rivals to deal with.
The fact that there are only three runners, at most, is a shame but Altior is such a talent that not many want to face him. I expect the champion chaser to win his seventeenth race over obstacles, but he is not a betting proposition for the likes of me.
Just a side note. Altior’s last defeat came in the champion bumper at Punchestown four years ago. The winner was Bellshill with the ill fated Disko second and Modus and Charbel next.
Altior was sixth and three places back was Supasundae. Some race for future winners that.
The Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock (3:15) used to be a good trial for the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Early winners included Little Owl, Bregawn, The Thinker, and Jodami. All of these went on to win the big one at the Festival the same season.
Haydock specialist Bristol De Mai is the best horse to win the race in recent years. And while the field this year looks to lack a horse able to compete at Gold Cup level it is a competitive race all the same.
Of the last fourteen runnings seven have been won by eight year olds. Only four have been ten or older. Bristol De Mai was the only six year old to win the race.
There has been no real bias regarding weights with the likes of Cloudy Lane carrying 11st 10lbs while three of the last four winners saddled less than 10st 7lbs.
Sue Smith has won this three times so anything she runs needs a second look. She saddles Wakanda who hasn’t really shone this season.
His last run of note was this time last year when he won the Skybet at Doncaster. He is just a pound higher here and a return to some sort of form is not impossible but I will pass on him.
Otago Trail was fifty lengths behind Valtor (now a non-runner) at Ascot but did hit a couple and was hampered. He is bettered judged on his third at Newcastle the time before and he has been placed in this race a couple of times in the past.
Daklondike has been pulled up in two of his last five starts but he did win the other three. His last win saw him a length too good for
Ballyarthur and they should be close together again with the runner up four pounds better off. Robinsfirth is another to mention having won last time out.
An interesting runner is 2017 Grand National winner One For Arthur. He was having his first run since that memorable day when unseating last time. It was too early for us to form a view but his trainer must be happy enough with his home form to run here.
BALLYDINE was our pick when just denied by Caroles Destrier at Newbury in the Mandarin. He is up seven for that but he looks a horse of potential and I am going in again.
BOITE would not be without a chance in the 2:25 at Ascot. He was nowhere in his last run, but that was the Christmas Hurdle. He has been coming down the weights and is only 1lb higher than when gaining his last win twelve months ago. And it was over this distance (give or take 110 yards). If runs close to his best he is bang there.
Charles Byrnes has engaged Robbie Power to ride Thosedaysaregone and he looks a dangerous raider. He won at Wetherby just last week and was backed to do so. Nine pounds higher here but he could have some potential.
I am happy to side again with BENATAR in the 3:00 at Ascot. He was third behind Valtor and the slight drop in trip could help him here. Mr Whitaker and Mr Medic are obvious dangers and if Divine Spear can show some of his form from his novice days he could take a hand.
I will end on a sombre note. Natasha Galpin was a work rider for trainer Iain Jardine. She had a fall when the horse she was riding suffered a ruptured artery. She died from her injuries. She was just twenty-two.
Iain Jardine said that he was “overwhelmed” by the messages of support from the racing authorities as well as trainers, jockeys, and other staff.
It must be awful for Natasha’s family, friends, and colleagues to have to bear this loss. At times like this the racing “family” come together. They will not forget her.