There is no doubt some top-level races are more equal than others. On the Flat, 10f Group One contests such as the Eclipse Stakes and the York International do not have the cachet of those run over either 12f, such as the Derby and the Arc, or even a mile, such as the Sussex or Queen Elizabeth II Stakes. Ten furlongs (on turf at least) is somehow neither fish nor fowl, the refuge of those who lack either stamina or pace.
Over fences, the intermediate distance is two and a half miles and when the Cheltenham Festival expanded to four days five years ago such a chase was added to the programme. Now with Grade One status and Ryanair sponsorship, it provides an option between the two-mile Queen Mother Champion Chase and the three and a quarter miles of the Gold Cup. Its winners – Imperial Commander, Our Vic and Taranis being the last three – have been no mugs and it is a valuable prize. But still only a consolation.
The market leaders for the next renewal, on Thursday fortnight, are two horses who fought out the finish of a Grade Three handicap at Cheltenham last autumn and the weekend did neither's prospects any harm. Poquelin, the runner-up in November, went on to take a similar contest the next month and his victim then, Razor Royale, won Saturday's Kempton feature.
And yesterday Poquelin's conqueror in the autumn, Tranquil Sea, continued his own progress with victory at Leopardstown, the ready winner of the Grade Two Newlands Chase. The white-faced bay's burgeoning class asserted as he moved towards the front of a packing field after the penultimate obstacle and took a clear advantage with a fine leap at the last.
He pulled clear of Natal and Snowy Morning in the extended two-miler without Andy McNamara having to get particularly animated in the saddle. "I was in front a bit sooner than I wanted," said the rider, "but he was travelling very well, and I didn't want to get crowded from behind. He had plenty in reserve at the end."
This was the afternoon that boasts one of the final Festival rituals for Irish contenders in the form of massed post-racing workouts, but Tranquil Sea's trainer Edward O'Grady opted for paid exercise. "The owners decided he'd be as well off running for €26,000 as just schooling," he said. "It isn't often things go as much to plan as that."
If Tranquil Sea's performance was more than satisfactory, over a distance too short and on ground softer than ideal, the same can be said, in spades, for the Grand National candidate Snowy Morning. The gelding finished powerfully and would have been second in another stride. "That was some Aintree prep," said his jockey, Ruby Walsh.
Turf account: Sue Montgomery
Awesome George (3.30 Hereford)
Is given a chance to regain the zest he showed in his first win over fences.
Beggar's Opera (4.40 Wolverhampton) Can make his belated debut a winning one.
One to watch
Shillingstone (R & S Alner) tired at Sandown recently. Effective on better ground, he holds an entry in the Fulke Walwyn/Kim Muir Challenge Cup.
Where the Money's Going
Weapon's Amnesty is 10-1 from 12-1 with Paddy Power to win the RSA Chase.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Marjury Daw (5.40 Wolverhampton)Reuse content