Philip Hobbs emerging from doldrums in fine style - let's hope I can follow suit
I took a delve through my record of tips for this column and for all we’re still in profit overall, it has been a frustrating 12 months.
The last jumps season was blighted by abandonments, we had plenty of shorteners but few winners (Ask Me Early was tipped at 7-1 and went off 5-4 in February) and Energumene having a last-minute setback when I’d tipped him ante-post at 33-1 for the Arkle was tough to swallow.
The Flat season started more promisingly with Quick Suzy winning the Queen Mary at 10-1, but it all turned rather dark again when Arc fancy Wonderful Tonight was retired, and 20-1 Ebor pick Hamish was a late non-runner on the day when contesting favouritism.
Hamish will have a leading chance when he takes on Trueshan, Stradivarius and co in Saturday’s Long Distance Cup, and while his form was boosted by Hukum last weekend and I think he is up to winning, I’m not going to get involved at around 5-1.
The reason I bring up my turbulent punting past is that after those frustrating near-misses, I am hoping to bounce back Philip Hobbs-style during the jumps season.
Despite winning Grade 1s with Sporting John and Thyme Hill last season, Hobbs had a quiet 2020-21 campaign, saddling just 54 winners – his lowest seasonal tally since 1992-93.
Fortunately, things are already looking much better for the Minehead trainer, who will increasingly rely on Tom O’Brien this season following Richard Johnson’s retirement.
The trainer has had seven winners from his last 19 runners for a 37 per cent strike-rate, suggesting his string could now be very well handicapped following a spell in the doldrums.
Hobbs enjoyed a one-two in Friday’s Persian War with Camprond and Luttrell Lad, followed by a double on Saturday as Masters Legacy rattled home to collar Valentino Dancer, before the unexposed Orbys Legend took the feature Silver Trophy.
The towering Iberio, who made a winning debut in the bumper at Newton Abbot on Sunday, will also be up to contesting decent races down the line.
Hobbs has quite a few horses who failed to deliver on earlier promise last season and, of those, the likes of Musical Slave, Wildfire Warrior and Oakley could now be ready to capitalise.
Rejuvenating Defi Du Seuil to the peak of his former powers may prove too big an ask, but he still has the likes of Zanza, Kalooki, Deise Aba, St Barts and Everglow to aim at the big Saturday races.
Hopefully I can take a leaf out of Hobbs’s book in the coming months and put up a stack of winners for you.
Cox Plate has me puzzled
I have been following the ex-Sir Michael Stoute-trained Zaaki closely ever since he joined Annabel Neasham’s Sydney base.
The six-year-old has taken Australia by storm, winning two Group 1s and three Group 2s, but the wheels fell off somewhat when he could manage only third behind Probabeel, who he had beaten on his previous start, in Saturday’s Might And Power Stakes at Caulfield after being sent off the 2-7 favourite.
He had long been considered a strong favourite for the Cox Plate on October 23, but I’ve had my doubts for a while given how uncomfortable he has looked on the sharp left-handed tracks in Australia.
The only problem was finding a horse to take him on with as last year’s winner Sir Dragonet and Verry Elleegant were both disappointing when last seen behind Incentivise in the Turnbull Stakes.
European racing fans will be familiar with fascinating contenders Gold Trip and State Of Rest, but neither is proven on Australian soil.
The former hasn’t been seen since finishing third in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud, while State Of Rest needs to improve on his Saratoga Derby win to be involved.
I think the three-year-olds could hold sway, and while Anamoe delivered on his early promise to win the Caulfield Guineas last weekend, arguably the better performance came from third-placed Artorius.
It was a similar story in the Golden Rose too, where Artorius came from miles back to finish fourth behind In The Congo, with Anamoe a narrow second.
The only issue is Artorius is set to go the Coolmore Stud Stakes at Flemington instead, which has left me a little stumped.
This year’s Cox Plate doesn’t look a deep renewal and to my eyes at least, is very much up for grabs. I’d imagine connections of several horses are now ruing making plans to swerve the race. Nevertheless, I can’t wait to see what happens.
Pick up your copy of The Big Jump Off, our all-new 72-page pullout free in the Racing Post on Monday, October 18 and featuring the views of Tom Segal, Paul Kealy, Patrick Mullins, Paul Nicholls, James Willoughby, Katie Walsh, Richard Johnson, Keith Melrose, Chris Cook, Lee Mottershead, David Jennings, Gavin Lynch, Lizzie Kelly, Graeme Rodway, Dave Orton, Steve Mason, Tom Collins and more!