The 2m chasing division was largely in the spotlight last weekend with the Betfair Tingle Creek and the randoxhealth.com Henry VIII the features on Sandown’s Saturday card backed up by several good novice chases during the week as well as the John Durkan and Edredon Bleu (Peterborough) over 2m 4f on Sunday.
Just like a week ago with Buveur D’Air, a high profile Nicky Henderson horse in Altior produced another dominant performance and as a consequence he is now odds-on to retain his Queen Mother Champion Chase crown in March.
With the rain pouring down as the runners circled at the start it was easy to wonder whether such biblical conditions would precipitate a shock but in many ways the race played out as many would have predicted.
By the Railway fences it was clear that Saint Calvados was going to come up short and that the rain had torpedoed Sceau Royal and Daryl Jacob’s plan to outspeed Altior.
If the rain did not suit Sceau Royal, it certainly did Un De Sceaux who, by virtue of two great leaps up the straight, was able to stay alongside Altior until the latter exerted his superiority on the run in.
The only alarm for supporters of Altior was when he stood off too far at the ditch early on, but there was no flat spot and instead a sense of inevitability in the closing stages as he took his unbeaten sequences over jumps to 15.
Unless Footpad can regain his mojo then Un De Sceaux on heavy ground may be as stiff an opponent as he will face all season, if Altior himself remains at 2m.
That could well make the Ryanair Chase quite competitive. Min and Charbel could well be heading down that road after their victories on Sunday but there will be plenty more stating their cases in the weeks to come.
If the deluge didn’t bother Altior, connections felt the ground had contributed to Lalor’s defeat in the Henry VIII.
Certainly, his performance was well below his previous Cheltenham run and Dynamite Dollars comfortably reversed the form. Lalor just seemed to struggle to lie up, which may not have been entirely due to the ground.
Lalor failoed to reproduce his Cheltenham form at Sandown
It is easy to forget how tricky it can be to come from behind over Sandown’s chase course and how horses that barely look as if they will stay 2m can bound up the hill.
It was a lesson painfully learnt with Marodima now more than ten years ago but such scarred memories have at least prevented me making a similar mistake again!
Lalor can bounce back but the Arkle division is one that is gathering momentum, with my personal favourite Kalashnikov looking assured at Plumpton, and Getabird and Mengli Khan also impressing in Ireland.
Unlike the markets for the Champion Hurdle and Champion Chase, the Arkle looks very competitive at this stage.
Selections for Tuesday start with:
Got off the mark in a maiden at the track last time and this longer trip should hold no fears. The two that finished behind her in a handicap the time before have also won since and she seems to be an improved horse on fibresand.
On several occasions he has looked as if a real test of stamina is needed and the transfer to handicaps for the first time also gives him the opportunity to take a step forward and gain his first victory.
The return to fibresand is the main angle here. Helen Sherbet won twice on the surface last season and should be better for her recent run at Newcastle and she races off a 3lb lower mark here.
Returns to the scene of his sole success off the same mark and his stable is flying, which hopefully will compensate for the lack of a recent run. His chances will be improved if he is able to dictate the pace.