LAST weekend was another fairly quiet one on the racing front, but not as quiet as it could have been, with all three of the main British jumping fixtures taking place, against the odds, but the Sunday one at Thurles falling by the wayside.
There were a few important performances, too, though evaluating them was a bit more difficult than usual due to a shortage of direct comparisons with races at the same course and distance on the same card.
We can start at Ascot with the week’s sole Grade 1, the Clarence House Chase, in which the admirable First Flow made it win number six in a row by lowering the colours of Politologue to the tune of seven lengths.
The pair of them cut out a strong pace and had their rivals in trouble a fair way out, First Flow showing the greater reserves from the home turn.
Politologue’s trainer, Paul Nicholls, graciously stated that the better horse won, and on the day there were no obvious excuses. But the form and the time overall suggest that Politologue was not quite at his best, and his Tingle Creek win remains one ahead of First Flow’s 167 figure here.
Both are comfortably behind Chacun Pour Soi, who I have tweaked to 174 since his outstanding win at Leopardstown over Christmas.
Aggressive front-running had paid off in the previous race at Ascot, also, with Dashel Drasher (158) toughing it out to deny Bennys King (159) in a classy 21-furlong handicap chase.
The finishing speeds in those two Ascot races were significantly slower than par at 93% and 95% respectively of average race speed.
The Grade 2 mares’ hurdle won by Roksana had been much more tactical (104% finishing speed) and she came through it with flying colours, a 134 basic timefigure becoming a 148 one on sectionals.
Roksana (151 overall) had plenty to spare, also, but more than anything this paid a compliment to Paisley Park (161) and Thyme Hill (160), who had beaten her narrowly but emphatically in the Long Walk Hurdle at this course before Christmas.
Tritonic (131) and Craigneiche (137) were useful hurdle winners elsewhere on the Ascot card, the former likely to prove one of the better British-trained juveniles but needing nearly all of the trip to overhaul Casa Loupi (130) on what was his hurdling debut.