ROBERT COOPER OFF THE BOX

TV celebrity com­bines wit and wis­dom

The Racing Paper - - Front Page - ROBERT COOPER

Surely only a stray al­li­ga­tor emerg­ing from the swamp-like course can stop EN­ABLE (Churchill Downs 8.56) win­ning the Turf

Even on a dark and gloomy Novem­ber af­ter­noon Rich Ricci dons the trade­mark shades. The owner of jump­ing stars FAUGHEEN and DOUVAN and dozens more was at Lingfield Park on Thurs­day to watch his pink “Mr Blobby colours” as he calls them car­ried by LAW GIRL in the Listed Eden Fil­lies’ Stakes.

She fin­ished only sev­enth but Ricci is the most philo­soph­i­cal of own­ers; he has to be as hot on the heels of any ma­jor tri­umph, dis­ap­point­ment can strike at ran­dom. I was hop­ing for a news scoop on DOUVAN who has suf­fered a mi­nor set­back (an­other one) and is cur­rently lame on his ‘good’ leg. Ricci ex­plains: “He has had leg trou­ble be­fore with his near fore but not on this one.”

It re­mains a mys­tery why Ricci doesn’t have more horses in train­ing in Bri­tain. He lives in Kent and Lingfield is his lo­cal race­course, yet most of his horses are trained in Ire­land by Wil­lie Mullins. This is an­other scoop that has evaded me.

How­ever, there was pos­i­tive news of FAUGHEEN who ended last sea­son win­ning the Stay­ers Hur­dle at Punchestown, but I sensed an­other stab at the Cham­pion Hur­dle hasn’t been ruled out. SALDIER, win­ner of the fouryear-old Hur­dle at Punchestown could be­come a Cham­pion Hur­dle chal­lenger but as Ricci points out, “the five year-old ca­reer for a top ju­ve­nile can be a very tricky one”.

He sin­gles out Katchit as one of the very few horses to have won the Tri­umph Hur­dle and fol­lowed up in the Cham­pion Hur­dle the next sea­son. “I ac­tu­ally fan­cied SALDIER very strongly in the Tri­umph but win­ning at Punchestown made up for it.”

SALDIER fin­ished well beaten in the Tri­umph but his progress this win­ter is ea­gerly an­tic­i­pated. EL BARRA (run­ner up in a point to point) and the to­tally un­ex­posed ANNAMIX are also worth look­ing out for. This time last year ANNAMIX was 10-1 ante post favourite for the 2018 Supreme Hur­dle but was ruled out for the sea­son with a pelvis in­jury. He has yet to set foot on a race­course for Mullins and Ricci but is now fit and ready to make up for lost time.

Last week­end was all about WINX Down Un­der, and now seven days later Breed­ers’ Cup fever abounds. As a bet­ting medium, it’s a dodgy busi­ness as in­ter­weav­ing Amer­i­can and Eu­ro­pean form is well nigh im­pos­si­ble. The dan­ger of dis­patch­ing cham­pi­ons like EN­ABLE and ROAR­ING LION to Amer­ica is that their undis­puted ku­dos can plum­met. We are told ‘they have noth­ing left to prove’ – prob­a­bly true, but hav­ing achieved mag­nif­i­cence at Longchamp and As­cot it would be a cry­ing shame if ei­ther horse’s sea­son, or ca­reer, ended in medi­ocrity at Churchill Downs. Surely only a stray al­li­ga­tor emerg­ing from the swamp-like turf course can stop EN­ABLE (Churchill Downs 8.56) win­ning the Turf.

Full marks to John Gos­den and his own­ers for at­tempt­ing equine im­mor­tal­ity, for if ROAR­ING LION (Churchill Downs 9.44) copes with the dirt and wins the £4m Clas­sic he could do just that. He has a lousy draw, is un­tried on the sur­face, and, as a re­sult, drifted like a barge in the bet­ting. How­ever he’s a Eu­ro­pean Cham­pion and he might sur­prise a few pes­simists. It’s hard to believe that trainer John Sadler has won vir­tu­ally ev­ery ma­jor race in the USA but is zero from 41 in the Breed­ers’ Cup – surely one of ei­ther AC­CEL­ER­ATE in the Clas­sic, SELCOURT in the Filly and Mare Sprint (4.00 Churchill Downs) or the un­beaten CATALINA CRUISER in the Dirt Mile (5.16 Churchill Downs) can put him on the score sheet.

James Doyle was in al­most un­stop­pable form at Lingfield on Thurs­day rid­ing a treble. In a very brief chat af­ter his third win­ner, he said he was jet­ting to Churchill Downs to ride ONE MAS­TER (7.36 Churchill Downs) in the Mile. Wil­liam Hag­gas’ filly was a sur­prise 33/1 win­ner of the Prix de La Foret on Arc day at Longchamp but Doyle said: “She’s drawn low which could be very bad or very good, but she will love the soft ground.” The ground will cer­tainly be be­yond soft so if Doyle can over­come the num­ber one gate, she could be a de­cent each way bet.

If only that Amer­i­can rain had fallen over here, but de­spite the quicker than usual ground con­di­tions for the time of year there is some qual­ity jump­ing this week­end. Only five horses line up for Wetherby’s Char­lie Hall Chase, among them is BLACK COR­TON on whom Bry­ony Frost won seven times last sea­son. If in the same rich vein he must go well, but I fancy Brian El­li­son’s DEFINITLY RED (2.40 Wetherby) to step up on his third in this race last year. He didn’t show his true colours in the Gold Cup but is well up to win­ning a race such as this. It’s been his tar­get for some time.

LADY BUT­TONS (2.05 Wetherby) showed plenty of abil­ity over fences last win­ter and looks sure to re­turn to chas­ing be­fore too long. She be­gins her cam­paign in this Listed hur­dle in which she looked nailed on to win last year, only to be beaten by a sub­se­quent Grade 2 win­ner LA BAGUE AU ROI. She goes well fresh and should be tough to beat.

The re­turn to two miles should suit GARDE LA VICTOIRE (2.25 AS­COT) who ran pretty well at Chep­stow re­cently be­hind CHARBEL. CHAM­PAGNE AT TARA who was in great form dur­ing the sum­mer, looks the dan­ger.

Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown clan dom­i­nate Down Royal’s JNWine.com Cham­pion Chase with five of the seven run­ners – there could be an acute short­age of coloured caps.

Ryanair Chase hero BALKO DES FLOS is prob­a­bly the num­ber one string but re­cent fit­ness could be a fac­tor and there was plenty to like about the way SUB LIEU­TENANT (DOWN ROYAL 2.30) beat OUT­LANDER at Punchestown. He will also pro­vide an op­por­tu­nity for the ex­cel­lent Bryan Cooper (sadly no re­la­tion) to re­turn to the lime­light. Af­ter a spate of near ca­reer end­ing in­juries Cooper has strug­gled for the past 12 months. A high pro­file win­ner will surely kick­start his sea­son.

Achiev­ing mag­nif­i­cence: En­able wins the Arc

Philo­soph­i­cal: Rich Ricci

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