Barry Geraghty Sporting Insights 28/11/2019
Barry Geraghty’s Sporting Index blog: Champ would have learnt plenty...
I’m looking forward to getting back on board Champ at Newbury on Friday (2.25pm). I schooled him last week and he felt great, so hopefully he can improve again from his first start over fences.
You had to be very happy with that run. He jumped nicely, would have learnt plenty from it and should improve for both experience and fitness, so it was a nice starting point in what was a competitive enough race.
When I rode him over hurdles he always gave the feel he was a chaser in the making and we always saw fences as the place he’d really excel.
He won the Challow Hurdle over course and distance in a slowly run race last season, so I don’t see any issues with him dropping back in trip here. He’s done most of his winning over two and a half miles, but he won over three at Aintree in the spring and he looks pretty versatile when it comes to trip.
The best horses are good at a variety of distances. He has the pace for two and a half, but stays three which gives us plenty of options down the line.
It looks a pretty strong renewal of the race and I think Black Op is the main danger. He had some pretty good novice form including finishing second to Samcro in the Ballymore a couple of years ago and was impressive on his first start over fences at Stratford.
My other ride on Friday is Unowhatimeanharry in the Long Distance Hurdle (3.00pm).
He’s been an amazing servant for connections and even though he’s an 11-year-old now, he showed he still retains plenty of ability with that win at Punchestown at the end of last season.
He ran a pretty solid race at Wetherby on his seasonal reappearance, though he was soundly beaten by The Worlds End and he’ll need to improve to get closer to that rival here.
Given he’s won this race in two of the last three years, he’s got to have a chance, but it looks a strong race on paper with the likes of Paisley Park and Thistlecrack in there.
Paisley Park is clearly the one we’ve all got to beat. He probably doesn’t get the credit he deserves as a result of the way he races, but he was unbeaten last season and is very much the benchmark in the stayers’ hurdle division at the moment.
We were obviously pretty disappointed with Birchdale’s run at Ascot last Friday. He had some strong form over hurdles and we were expecting better than he showed, but nothing has come to light since. Hopefully he’ll be back to somewhere near his best next time.
On Sunday, Fitzhenry ran a fantastic race in the Troytown. He travelled really well for a long way, but just couldn’t match the winner between the last and the second last. The winner looks very progressive and I imagine you’ll see him in Graded company soon.