THIS year’s Cheltenham Festival promises to be as good as ever, with several showdowns simmering already between good Irish horses and good British horses. But if we needed reminding that the Arkle Chase on the opening day is not just a match between 168-rated Energumene and 169-rated Shishkin we got it on Monday when Allmankind won at Warwick.
The Dan Skelton-trained five-year-old made it three out of three over larger obstacles with a heavy defeat of 155-rated Sky Pirate and 149-rated Cheddleton. He was mostly slick up front, quickly recovering from a mistake two out to have the race in safe-keeping.
It is difficult to put an accurate figure on this performance, as it was one of only two races over fences on the card, comparing well with the other at half a mile farther.
On the face of it, it looks very good indeed: if anything else ran its race, or close to its race, then Allmankind should go to the front of the novice chase pecking order.
What is likely is that they did not, but Allmankind already had a 160-rated effort to his name as a result of winning the Henry VIII Novices Chase at Sandown in a time only 2lb slower than Politologue managed in the Tingle Creek on the same card.
Even leaving Allmankind on that figure, as I have done, makes him a significant rival to the big two in the Arkle, not least because he is very capable of taking good rivals out of their comfort zones.
That other chase at Warwick was a decent two-and-a-half-mile handicap, won by Two For Gold from Aso. They are capable of running into the 150s but have been credited with time-based performances of 142 and 148 here given that comparison with Allmankind.
The other major race on Warwick’s rearranged card was the listed mares’ hurdle, which saw France’s champion hurdler Paul’s Saga trail in a poor second to Molly Ollys Wishes, having travelled well enough but gone out like a light on the home turn.
The quality of French jumps racing has been steadily eroded this century, as much of the best stock has been sold on at an early age, but it still takes something in the 150s at least to do what Paul’s Saga had done previously.
She was clearly not herself, unless you reckon that Molly Ollys Wishes (considered to have run to 146 here) could win a French Champion Hurdle by a wide margin.
A quick mention should also be made of the concluding Warwick bumper winner, Kim Bailey’s Kyntara, who sauntered home by 21 lengths.
In form terms, this looks worth in the region of 131, but the time was poor (slower than the run-of-the-mill handicap hurdle earlier on, and worth just 72), so a pinch of salt is necessary.