THE admirably consistent Fakir D’oudairies (150+) maintained his impressive record over two and a half miles in the Grade 2 Horse & Jockey Hotel Chase at Thurles and has still yet to finish outside of the first two places over the trip.
His only three defeats at the distance have been sustained at the hands of Allaho and, more recently, Galopin Des Champs. However, there was more than a degree of fortune about victory last Sunday as only the final fence exit of Haut En Couleurs prevented the Joe Donnelly-owned gelding from potentially adding his name to the Closutton list.
The time figure was the best of the day, although Joseph O’Brien’s gelding did not quite scale the heights he has in the past, echoing his trainer’s thoughts that he probably required a run ahead of his Amlin Chase defence at Ascot prior to setting his sights on other spring targets.
Haut En Couleurs, on the other hand, was in the process of running a career-best and has undoubtedly improved for the extra half mile this season.
The final circuit time was the quickest, although surprisingly it was Stumptown (135) who was closest to the Grade 2 winner as just 0.6secs separated the pair.
Allegorie De Vassy (137+) was 1.3secs slower than Gavin Cromwell’s handicap winner.
The close proximity of the 112-rated Stumptown over the shortened distance could suggest the performances of the Grade 2 winners were below standard.
However, ignoring standard times and race distances by tracking the three races over the final two circuits confirms the handicap to be the slowest contest, although not by as much as the difference in official ratings.
The raw data for the two-circuit race saw Fakir D’oudairies cover the ground 2.9secs ahead of Allegorie De Vassy, who in turn crossed the line 1.4secs ahead of Stumptown.
It was a miracle Allegorie De Vassy and Paul Townend were still a partnership after the first fence as, after an extended run to reach the obstacle, the mare let fly at it sending the champion into orbit.
However, unflustered by the experience, she was quickly back on an even keel and was the equal of the Horse & Jockey field entering the home straight for the first time.
Allowed to coast home in her own time, the six-year-old covered the ground from the third last fence in 63.1secs which, like her final circuit, was the slowest of the three early chases.
This was another clear indication of the speed at which she covers the ground early in her races as her exuberant jumping complements her powerful gallop.
Looking to Cheltenham, a similarly attacking ride looks in the offing, and is a tactic which often pays dividends on the New Course where jumping is at a premium.
If battle is commenced with last week’s impressive winner Impervious they will prove the ultimate test for each other with their contrasting run styles adding to the intrigue of the contest.
Stumptown is a horse destined to climb the handicap ranks quickly judged on this time figure and supporting data. He added the fastest closing sectional to his achievements, stopping the clock at 62.5secs for his closing sectional. In comparison Fakir D’oudairies completed his race in 62.9secs.
To conclude the analysis over fences, Ferns Lock (120+) completed the clean sweep for favourites as he beat the returning Billaway (108). In a slowly-run race, the young hunter chaser proved quickest through the final stages as his closing sectionals of 62.9secs formed part of a final circuit which was 6.8secs slower than Fakir D’oudairies.
Embassy Gardens (151+) improved out of all recognition on the clock for stepping up in distance in the maiden hurdle. He followed in the footsteps of stable companion Monkfish, who won this same race en route to Albert Bartlett success at Cheltenham.
Aligned to the quickest time figure when adjusted for distance, the seven-year-old also displayed speed in abundance and it is likely he would have beaten both two-mile winners in a reduced race from the first hurdle they jumped together if he was ridden out to the line.
As it was, Hey Johnny (105+) covered the final circuit quicker courtesy of his closing sectional of 30.6secs, albeit achieved against the slowest pace of the day over hurdles.
Embassy Gardens covered the same ground in 32.2secs after reaching the sectional starting point 0.1secs behind Thomas Mullins’ gelding.
The difference between the pair over the circuit was 1.7secs in favour of the two-miler, although Willie Mullins’ gelding was still 2.9secs quicker than Belle The Lioness (126), whose closing sectional was the slowest of the three races at 32.9secs.