Raglan Road seeks poetic justice
Perhaps Graham Wylie already knew the poem, when he spent £320,000 to buy On Raglan Road at the Doncaster Sales in May.
After all, the standard caveat to speculators – that the value of investments can go down as well as up – acquires an unusually literal sense when it comes to jumpers. As such, maybe those who christened the horse were mindful of one line, in particular, in Patrick Kavanagh's poem: "I saw the danger, yet I walked along the enchanted way."
As Howard Johnson's chief patron, however, Wylie has now been in racing long enough to have acquired due perspective on its addictive highs and unsparing lows. And he knows that On Raglan Road arrives at Sandown today retaining every right to prove as solid an investment as Tidal Bay, who reaches a crossroads in his own career on tomorrow's card.
Back in 2006, Wylie had spent 300,000 guineas in the same ring to acquire Tidal Bay, likewise a bumper winner for another yard. Last spring, he won novice championships at both Cheltenham and Aintree, and tomorrow heads the opposition to Master Minded in the Seasons Holidays Tingle Creek Chase.
On Raglan Road, winner of a point-to-point and a Punchestown bumper, was given his debut over hurdles by his new connections at Hexham a couple of months ago, winning by a distance. He was then beaten at Aintree by another exciting prospect, Massasoit, but the pair pulled miles clear of two subsequent winners, and he certainly remains in step with Tidal Bay at the equivalent stage of his career.
Wylie and Johnson could do with a tonic after the injury suffered by their champion staying hurdler, Inglis Drever, at Newbury last weekend – and that is exactly what they should get from On Raglan Road (2.0).
Inglis Drever himself won the same race in his youth, and there are also one or two distinguished names on the roll of honour for the Blue Square Future Stars' Chase, including a subsequent Gold Cup winner in Looks Like Trouble.
Despite the usual small field, over this track stamina remains the obvious reservation about Barbers Shop, who travelled so strongly over two and a half miles when beaten only by Imperial Commander at Cheltenham last month. Roll Along (2.35) is duly taken to confirm the improvement implicit in his defeat of the subsequent Hennessy runner-up, Air Force One, on their Ascot reappearance. Roll Along certainly looked a far stronger stayer than one or two other protagonists when second in the Royal & SunAlliance Chase at the Festival. The chances of both these horses will, of course, be obvious to the bookmakers, as well, but a bolder opportunity draws the eye to their ante-post lists on the Coral Welsh National at Chepstow on 27 December.
Admittedly some of those persuaded to back High Chimes in the Hennessy will not be disposed to persevere with him, after he finished only sixth. But he cruised through the race, made ground easily from the rear and, after being briefly outpaced, stayed on steadily in the straight – despite having to be switched at least twice, not given a hard race when his chance had gone. All in all, he promised to be well suited by the extra distance at Chepstow, in a race close to the heart of his trainer, Evan Williams.
"He would have been nearly ready for the Hennessy, but I had half an eye on the Welsh National," Williams admitted yesterday. "And that would have been a great prep run. He might have been placed, had things worked out better. We dropped him in, in the hope they would go a million miles an hour – but they didn't and he pulled hard for the first mile and a half."
Williams has the same Chepstow card in mind for Simarian, one of the season's leading juveniles, and the Taunton bumper winner, Megabill – a half-brother to On Raglan Road, no less. But for now it is the 16-1 against High Chimes that seduces attention. Anyone who backed this horse at Newbury has seen the danger, but he still tempts "along the enchanted way".
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