THE week just gone was the week of non-appearances, whether it was the no-show of Altior in the Betfair Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown, a John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase in which most of the action was invisible due to fog, or the disappearance of fences at Sandown, Exeter and Aintree due to perfectly predictable low sun.
Some of those non-appearances were easier to stomach than others. Connections were entitled to withdraw Altior as the rules stand, but not to take umbrage at perfectly reasonable questions about their decision, nor to maintain that the ground on the chase course at Sandown on Saturday was “heavy” in the face of clear evidence to the contrary.
This year’s Tingle Creek was run in the fifth-fastest time in the last decade, using Timeform’s times, despite the gallop being sensible rather than strong and 15 yards being added due to rail movements (more or less offset by the runners missing out the Pond Fence).
Any time-based analysis is very likely to conclude that the ground was somewhere between “good to soft” and “soft”: Timeform have gone for the former.
Indeed, Politologue completed the shortened two miles in a time 1.4s (around six lengths) slower than managed by Allmankind in winning the Planteur At Chapel Stud Henry VIII Novices’ Chase 35 minutes earlier.
There needs to be a bit more context, not least that Allmankind, as a four-year-old, carried 11lb less than Politologue. Allmankind was also nearly 2.0s quicker to that omitted obstacle, having set a pace that was almost bang on par for the conditions.
Nonetheless, that is impressive stuff by a horse of Allmankind’s age, and he goes to the top of the novice chase division with a rating of 160. Runner-up Hitman now occupies second spot on 156, one ahead of Shishkin.
That weight differential means that Politologue comes out at 162 on overall time, but the Tingle Creek can be edged up due to how it was run. He remains on 168, which is consistent with his best previous form, while Greaneteen improved (rather less than I had been hoping) to 158.
Those who decry the domination of the Cheltenham Festival to the detriment of races like the Tingle Creek and the Henry VIII have a point, but now those races are over thoughts inevitably turn to March.
In this form, Allmankind should be a serious player in the Arkle Chase, but the five-year average rating of winners of that race is a notably high 165, and this season’s intake looks anything but substandard.
Politologue is two below the same benchmark for the Queen Mother Champion Chase, and the same amount behind 170-rated Notebook on my figures, but the senior two-mile chase division does not look especially strong.
Unless, that is, Altior emerges from his box for something other than a racecourse gallop and shows that he is as good rising 11 as he was in his pomp.