Andy Gibson's Eyecatchers: Fallout from the Savills Chase

Horse racing analyst Andy Gibson takes a look back at December's Savills Chase at Leopardstown as a yardstick to measure some of the contenders' prospects at Cheltenham in March.

Conflated won the 2022 Savills Chase in broadly similar fashion to the way he had succeeded over course and distance in the 2022 Irish Gold Cup. In both races it was more a case of it being a test of speed rather than stamina for the winner.

This Gordon Eliott-trained eight-year-old arguably beat a tougher group of rivals here in February and still came up well short of what was required to win a Ryanair Chase.

He had Kemboy a similar margin behind at Aintree in April when chasing home Clan Des Obeaux, so maybe that comparison is as reliable as any when assessing where this winner stands in the pecking order.

Kemboy past his best?

The runner-up in the Savills Chase was Kemboy, who is now on a losing run of 12 races stretching back to February 2021.

He may have run some solid enough races of late, but in terms of Grade 1 Cheltenham Festival standards, Kemboy's presence in second place does not add anything to the quality of this form.

Similarly, the presence of Fury Road does not add anything to the quality of the winner's performance; after all, he was well below the standard set by the best novice chasers of last season.

Fury Road stayed on past a tiring rival or two to finish a flattering third in a race that lacked depth for a Grade 1 chase. He has been raised to 158 after this performance and is extremely flattered by that response.

Furthermore, I am not sure how much Franco De Port has actually achieved here in running past a tired rival to take fourth place. He might have earned his connections a few grand in prize money, but beat very little that ran a race.

The horse to keep an eye on

French Dynamite's Cheltenham form from November received a boost with the success of Midnight River, who was successful on the new course at Cheltenham on New Year's Day.

In addition, the strong performances of Il Ridoto and Nassalam in both those Cheltenham contests offer some substance to the reliability of that form.

Betwixt and between?

It is possible that the Ryanair Chase might be flying too high for French Dynamite, but at the same time, his 152 rating could translate into carrying top weight, which might be enough to see him perform very well without winning the handicap chase on the same day.

Either way, this Leopardstown performance was an interesting effort from a very good chaser, despite his fifth-place finish.

French Dynamite appeared to be still over-racing with eight to jump off what looked just a steady gallop before not lasting home over the three-mile trip.

The time comparisons with the novice chase later on the card add some substance to this being more a test of speed than of stamina. Maybe he will stay better when competing off a faster pace, which in turn could help him to settle in the first half of the race.

I was still taken by the way he travelled off the turn for home in the Savills Chase, and also throughout the race in the Paddy Power Gold Cup Handicap Chase at Cheltenham in a race run at a stronger gallop.

Handicap route looks the way to go

My hope would be to see French Dynamite compete in the intermediate handicap chase on a decent surface with a higher-rated chaser at the top of the weights.

In the last five renewals of the race his 152 rating would have translated to him competing off:

  • 2022 - 11st 9lbs
  • 2021 - 11st 10lbs
  • 2020 - 11st 7lbs
  • 2019 - 11st 8lbs
  • 2018 - 11st 9lbs

He should settle better off the likely faster gallop he will face in a typical Cheltenham handicap. Furthermore, I really like the way Mouse Morris has prepared his Cheltenham horses in the past when he has had one good enough to travel over in March, and I would suggest he has just that in French Dynamite.

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