Friday, 17 February 2012

Reflections on Newbury, commentating woes at Lingfield....................................................................

I suspect that my reading of Sprinter Sacre and Long Run's displays at Newbury is going to be the reverse of most people. Starting with Sprinter Sacre. His demolition of French Opera was indeed impressive following on from hammering a below-par Peddlers Cross at Kempton.

His jumping was spectacular, his cruising speed impressive, but it's his raw speed that ultimately could cause him problems. Nicky Henderson's son of Network was outstayed by Al Ferof(another Arkle contender)in the Supreme Novices' last year after arriving on the bridle.

I suspect it's only those holding tasty vouchers for the novice's chasing championship who are convinced that Cheltenham won't again prove his master. There is no way, in my opinion, he can run as free as he did here at Newbury (he will come off the bridle in the Arkle) and land a Grade 1 event up that unrelenting hill.

Long Run, however, impressed me greatly in narrowly defeating useful stablemate Burton Port. Ultimately, the winning distance was a diminishing half a length but that doesn't tell the whole story.

Sam Waley-Cohen got the 2011 Gold Cup winner into a superb rhythm (he jummped as well as he has ever done) and he travelled superbly. I accept he didn't win as easily as first looked likely, but he was conceding the runner-up 10lbs, who will also go for the Blue Riband event.

The Cheltenham gradient, unlike for Sprinter Sacre, is made for Long Run and his performance at Newbury on free Friday, strenghten my belief that he will win back-to-back Gold Cup's.

I was less impressed by Zarkandar. Yes, in a rough race, he showed plenty of courage and it was his first start for 316 days. But a performance to have connections of Hurricane Fly quaking?. Not for me. He would need a crazy pace in the Champion to bring his stamina into play.

Matt Chapman made his commentating debut at Lingfield today. He proved his ability to shout, show hidden skills of being a mind reader and a psychologist all in the space of a 1m 5f contest.

Sadly, after arriving at his encore quicker than a schoolboy watching Hollyoaks, he forgot the basic skill of a commentator - of saying what you see. Simon Holt can rest easily.

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