3/8/2016 12:23:19 PM
Monday 16th to Sunday 22nd November 2015
KING’S ODYSSEY – Handicapper
Evan Williams’ 6-year-old boasted some decent form over hurdles last season, shedding his maiden tag at the fifth time of asking and he was switched to the larger obstacles at Southwell on Tuesday. He was making his handicap debut in the 3m novices’ handicap chase and was strong in the market before the off, sent off the 5/2 joint favourite for his chase debut. He finished third, 5 lengths behind winner, the Jonjo O’Neill-trained Capard King. Immediately after the race I was disappointed with King’s Odyssey seasonal reappearance but it quickly transpired that he bled from the nose (assuming from a burst blood vessel) and I expect him to leave this effort behind and prove himself as a handicap chaser well worth following.
YANWORTH – Top Prospect
A winner of the Plymouth Novices’ Hurdle at Exeter on his debut over timber, Yanworth was out to enhance his reputation at Warwick on Wednesday and again created a good impression, jumping well until he was untidy at the final two obstacles which gave his main rival Le Prezien half a chance. The front pair pulled 18 lengths clear of the remainder and although Yanworth was a cosy winner in the end, the Paul Nicholls-trained runner-up made a pleasing British debut. I expect Yanworth to be targeted at the Kennel Gate at Ascot next month where he is likely to face his stiffest task to date but he has plenty of natural talent and can take the rise in class in his stride.
WELSH SHADOW – Top Prospect
Dai Walter’s 5-year-old was unable to cope with Yanworth when making his hurdling debut at Exeter at the beginning of the month but Dan Skelton clearly holds this son of Robin Des Champs in high regard and he opted for the Newton Novices’ Hurdle at Haydock on Friday as his next assignment. It was frustrating that his main market rivals Francis Of Assisi and Marracudja did not participate as this would have given the form a solid look to it with both already showing a good level of form over hurdles. With the two defects, Welsh Shadow was sent off as the even money favourite and confirmed the promise of his first start over timber when running out the 2 ¼ length winner. The runner-up Viens Chercher finished behind Altior in the Sharp Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham last weekend and although he was well beaten that day, he is a likeable individual and it is therefore encouraging that Welsh Shadow brushed him aside with the minimum of fuss. At the beginning of the season I predicted that Welsh Shadow would be capable of winning over two miles and following this impressive display, he could be targeted at the Grade 1 Tolworth at Sandown. It is encouraging that this horse is showing a decent level of form over the minimum distance as I fully expect him to progress further when tackling a longer trip in the future.
MINELLA ROCCO – Top Prospect
This 5-year-old son of Shirocco is held in extremely high-regard by his connections and although it was reported that they considered staying over hurdles, I was delighted to see him declared for his chase debut at Haydock on Friday. A former point-to-point winner, Minella Rocco has always had the size and scope to excel when switched to the larger obstacles and after showing plenty of class over hurdles last term where he was unbeaten in two starts, I expected a bold showing. However, it was a far from straight forward with recent chase winner Silsol and Private Malone providing decent opposition and it was the Paul Nicholls-trained Silsol who made it two from two with odds-on favourite Minella Rocco finishing last of the three runners. Although many of his supporters will have been left disappointed after his chase debut, I remain optimistic that will prove himself a smart recruit to this sphere, especially when tackling a longer trip. I expect that a novices’ chase over three miles is the most likely destination for his next outing and it would be no surprise if he strips fitter for his seasonal reappearance and prove hard to beat. With his connections deciding to send More Of That chasing this season, a lively RSA contender; I would not be surprised if Minella Rocco is aimed at the National Hunt Chase over four miles at the Cheltenham Festival.
AIR COMMAND – Point-To-Pointer
An impressive winner on his first start in point-to-points, Air Command ran below par on his second start in that sphere but his debut effort was enough to warrant his inclusion in The Final Flight Jumps Guide. He made his debut over hurdles in the maiden hurdle over two miles at Gowran Park on Saturday and he finished a satisfactory fourth place behind three smart prospects including Champion Bumper sixth Supasundae. I feel it was an encouraging run given the company that he was tackling on his rules debut and he looks a sure fire winner of a maiden hurdle. He is a horse that will appreciate a step up to intermediate trips this season and ultimately will make up into a useful staying chaser when switched to that code.
SEMPER INVICTA – Point-To-Pointer
Runner-up in his sole point behind Dounikos who also features in this year’s publication, Semper Invicta made his rules debut in the concluding bumper for Paul Nicholls at Ascot on Saturday where he finished a satisfactory fourth behind impressive winner Criq Rock. He is not one who strikes me as a bumper type and for that reason, I expect an imminent switch to hurdles. He should excel in that sphere when tackling trips between 2m4f and 3m and is a nice long-term prospect for the champion trainer.
DOUVAN – Top Prospect
All eyes were on Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner Douvan at Navan on Sunday as he made his eagerly anticipated chase debut in the same race that superstar chaser Vautour made his debut 12 months earlier. An athletic and sizeable individual, Douvan was always likely to take a switch to fences in his stride and his jumping on debut was impressive, other one scary moment when he dived at the final obstacle. Unlike when running over hurdles last season, Douvan was sent on by Walsh, making all of the running and winning as his prohibitive odds suggested he would. After his mistake at the last fence, it was particularly pleasing how he bounded clear of his inferior rivals on the run-in to score by an easy 9 ½ lengths. There is sure to be tougher assignments ahead with the Grade 1 Racing Post Novices’ Chase on Boxing Day his likely target but following his successful chase debut, he remains the most exciting novice chaser in training.
The week in brief (not so brief now that the season is in full flow!)
Useful bumper performer Mckenzie’s Friend made a winning start to his hurdling career at Plumpton on Monday for Oliver Sherwood but it was ex-flat racer AUTHORIZED TOO who caught my eye. Rated 78 on the level, Authorized Too was sent off an unfancied 40/1 shot for his debut over timber and ran an encouraging race to finish a close second. He travelled powerfully throughout the race, emerging as a real threat to the eventual winner and although he was unable to get the better of Mckenzie’s Friend, the front pair were 7 lengths clear of the third and he looks a ready-made winner of a similar event. The lightly raced 5-year-old LE MERCUREY made his chase debut on the same card and ran out an impressive 6 length winner, beating the penalised Towcester winner Violet Dancer in relatively comfortable fashion. He was bought with chasing in mind and with a step-up in trip likely to bring out further improvement, he is one to follow now switched to the larger obstacles.
Willie Mullins’ bumper winner UP FOR REVIEW made his debut over hurdles at Fairyhouse on Wednesday and made an encouraging start to his jumping career when scooting clear of a decent yardstick in the Gordon Elliott-trained Space Cadet. Following a satisfactory bumper campaign last term, he looked like a horse that would be much better when sent hurdling and he confirmed that with his easy 8 length victory. He appeared to appreciate the step-up to 2m4f on his hurdling debut and I expect this horse to continue to progress throughout the season, with the potential to emerge as a leading candidate in the staying hurdle division.
BRISTOL DE MAI bumped into a useful sort in the form of Garde La Victoire on his chase debut and that race has worked out particularly well after the Philip Hobbs-trained gelding went on to win the Arkle trial at Cheltenham last weekend. Nigel Twiston-Davies opted for a novice chase at Warwick as the next port of call for Bristol De Mai and he made amends for his debut defeat with an emphatic round of jumping, galloping his rivals into submission from a long way out. The form of this race has substance as he brushed aside Karezak, an admirable juvenile hurdler for Alan King last term, by 19 lengths and I expect this to be the start of a successful novice chase campaign for the Simon Munir and Isaac Souede-owned 4-year-old.
BARNEY DWAN made his debut at Exeter in early November and finished a respectable 5 ¾ length third behind Yanworth and Welsh Shadow. He was tackling a longer trip in the opening novices’ hurdle at Market Rasen on Thursday and he appeared to appreciate the extra 2 ½ furlongs, taking up the running with two to jump and scoring in impressive style by 10 lengths. The runner-up Oldgrangewood was a good winner of his sole point and is held in high regard by his handler, so this form should not be taken lightly. It is understood that there is no immediate plan for this Fergal O’Brien-trained gelding but I expect him to prove worth following over intermediate trips this season. On the same card, Ronald O’Leary teamed up with Andrew Tinkler in the concluding bumper with 4-year-old KEEPER HILL and the son of Westerner made a pleasing racecourse debut, staying on strongly to win by a convincing 6 lengths. O’Leary has a good record with his newcomers in bumpers (now 7 wins from 18 runs) in recent seasons and Keeper Hill looks another with a bright future. He has the pedigree to be a useful jumper and it will be interesting to see if he is sent to the sales with his race record reading one from one.
Since finishing fourth behind Bobs Worth in the 2013 Lexus Chase, SIR DES CHAMPS had been absent and therefore it was good to see him return to the racetrack at Thurles on Thursday. It was wonderful to see another superstar return from such a lengthy absence and this dual festival winner made no mistake in making his first run in nearly two years a winning one. The 2m6f trip that he was tackling on this occasion was on the sharp side and for that reason it was no surprise to see him putting in his best work at the end, eventually winning by a cosy 2 ¾ lengths. The runner-up Rubi Light is not the force he once was but this was more than a satisfactory comeback and I expect him to come on for the run and he can, once more, make his presence felt in Graded Company.
Trainer Gary Moore appears to have a good team of young horses and he unleashed another promising novice hurdler on Friday at Ascot, this time in the form of KRUGERMAC. Second to the exciting Nambour in a bumper at Punchestown in May before being subsequently sold for £185,000, this 4-year-old son of Kalanisi is bred to jump and he made a most impressive hurdling debut, bounding clear of a useful looking field to win by 8 lengths. He showed an excellent turn of foot to readily draw clear after jumping the final obstacle and based on this performance he looks an excellent recruit the novice hurdle division. He is one to follow. THOMAS BROWN, rated 142 over hurdles, has always looked an embryonic chaser and I am sure that I was not the only one excited to see Harry Fry’s charge make his chase debut in the 2m2f beginners’ chase at Ascot on Friday. This dual point-to-point winner jumped efficiently on his first start over the larger obstacles and as expected had too much class for his inferior rivals, easily sauntering to a 9 lengths success. Highly tried at the end of last season when last seen finishing sixth in the Grade 1 Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree behind Thistlecrack, he is only a 6-year-old and with further progress highly likely, I expect Thomas Brown to be Graded class over the larger obstacles.
Trevor Hemmings is often associated with long-term staying chase prospects and in VINTAGE CLOUDS he looks to have another horse who is very much in that mould. Following a satisfactory hurdles debut at Carlisle, trainer Sue Smith opted for the 2m2f fixed brush novices’ hurdle at Haydock on Friday as his next assignment and he made no mistake on his second attempt over jumps, staying on strongly to win by 9 lengths. It is unlikely that we will see the best of this half-brother to smart chaser Vintage Star until he is running in staying chases and for that reason he enters the notebook as a long-term prospect rather than a sure fire winner on his next outing. However, with the form that he has already shown in bumpers and now over hurdles, he clearly has plenty of ability and he rates as an exciting prospect for his connections. Venetia Williams is far from prolific with her bumper runners but DU SOLEIL made a winning start in that sphere in the concluding bumper at Haydock on Friday. The 3-year-old was sent off the 15/8 favourite for the 1m7f contest and showed signs of a stayer when taking up the running with three furlongs still to race and steadily drew clear of his market rival, Crackdeloust. With the majority of the field making their racecourse/British debuts the form is difficult to assess but the winner was visually impressive and I feel he will be worth following when switched to the hurdling ranks. I would not be surprised if his connections turn to jumping sooner rather than later and he can prove himself as a useful juvenile hurdler during the 2015/2016 campaign.
The Jonjo O’Neill-trained ANOTHER HERO was making his chase debut off his hurdles mark of 128 at Ascot on Saturday but he had a 584-day absence to overcome after not being seen since finishing second at Cheltenham in April 2014. After a couple of mistakes on the way around, Barry Geraghty appeared to be travelling well before being carried left and hampered at the second last. However, with time to recover, he was able to galvanise his mount to lead at the final fence and he stayed on strongly to record a 1 ½ length success. O’Neill is renowned for his excellent handling of his handicap chasers, especially in the staying division and given this talented 6-year-old is likely to progress further, Another Hero looks one to keep on side in staying handicap chases. On the same card, the breathtaking winner of the JLT Novices’ Chase at last season’s Cheltenham festival Vautour was making his seasonal reappearance in the Grade 2 chase. He made a winning reappearance at prohibitive odds and although there was one scary moment for his backers when he made a mistake at the 11th, he remains as one of the most exciting second season chasers. I reserve judgement as to whether or not the Cheltenham Gold Cup should be his spring target but one would be very brave to question Willie Mullins and I expect the outcome of the King George to form his long-term plans. Most spectators expected Mullins’ charge to dismiss his five rivals with the minimum of fuss but that was far from the case as PTIT ZIG emerged with plenty of credit, finishing a close 1 ¾ length second. Paul Nicholls’ 6-year-old did have the benefit of a recent outing but it was still a fine effort to finish so close to Vautour, especially given the fact that he was conceding 5lb. Ptit Zig was disappointing in last season’s JLT when a well beaten fifth behind Vautour but I suspect that he did not show his true running that day and although the staying chase division is particularly strong, I feel that he is more than capable of springing a surprise.
FOOTPAD, a runner-up on his final start at Auteuil when trained in France, made his British debut in the 3-year-old maiden hurdle at Gowran Park on Saturday. He created a good impression, travelling menacingly in the hands of Paul Townsend into the straight and readily drawing clear on the run-in. His performance was visually impressive and the margin of his victory could have been much further if his jockey has asked him a serious question after jumping the final flight of hurdles. He was quickly introduced into the Triumph Hurdle market, a 12/1 favourite with some firms and although I wouldn’t be getting too excited at this early stage, it appears that Simon Munir and Isaac Souede have another likeable individual on their hands. American Tom was all the rage prior to the 2m novices’ hurdle on the same card but he appeared to be a somewhat fortunate winner in the end as GUNNERY SERGEANT fell and brought down Neverrushacon in the process. That pair looked to be travelling better than the eventual winner at the time of the incident and based on the formers point-to-point and bumper wins along with this encouraging hurdling debut, he looks one to follow in novice hurdles. His rider Bryan Cooper deserves a mention after his heroics which prevented a potentially nasty incident as Robbie Power was strung up on his mount Neverrushacon following the fall. This again displayed how dangerous our much loved sport is and it was fantastic to see Betfair raise £50,000 for the Injured Jockeys Fund on Saturday. A big well done to everyone that used #NationalJockeyDay in their tweets throughout the day.
In my opinion, last season’s Triumph Hurdle was one of the best renewals in recent years and TOP NOTCH gave the form a significant boost when running Irving close in the Betfair Price Rush Hurdle at Haydock on Saturday. The pair raced off level weights in this valuable two mile contest where Daryl Jacob opted to take up the running on Top Notch at the second flight of hurdles. The 4-year-old looked to have Irving in trouble when he appeared flat footed at the third last but Paul Nicholls’ 7-year-old ran on strongly at the finish and was in control in the closing stages of the race. Top Notch will have gained valuable experience from this first attempt against seasoned hurdlers and given that the front pair were 8 lengths clear of Melodic Rendezvous in third, the form has a solid enough look to it. Irving and Melodic Rendezvous were race-fit following their first and second in the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton and Top Notch is likely to strip fitter for the run and further progress is almost certain. I expect he will appreciate a step up to intermediate trips in the future and I would not be surprised if the Grade 2 Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham is on his agenda following this promising seasonal reappearance. The Grade 3 Fixed Brush Handicap Hurdle at Haydock is always a race that I look forward to, with many trainers using the 2m6f contest as the perfect stepping-stone for horses that are likely to embark on a novice chase campaign. A number of Saturday’s runners fit that bill including the runner-up Definitely Red, fourth-placed Alcala and the unfortunate OUR KAEMPFER, who was beginning to make his move from the rear of the field when being brought down at the 8th. He ran a promising race on his seasonal reappearance when fourth at Chepstow in the Silver Trophy before finishing a frustrating second at Aintree at the beginning of the month where the early slow gallop certainly did not suit. With a number of horses still to play their hand at the time of falling, it is difficult to assess whether the Charlie Longsdon-trained 6-year-old would have troubled Dan Skelton’s impressive winner Baradari but the confidence in which Noel Fehily was gradually coaxing him into the contest tells me that he had plenty of horse left and I believe that he would have gone close but for being brought down. He is an athletic horse who has plenty of size and scope about him and he will therefore have no problem in jumping fences when the time comes. However, he has run credibly in Grade 1 company over timber and I expect Charlie Longsdon to continue to target this son of Oscar at handicap hurdles for the time being and he remains one to follow off a workable handicap mark. The Grade 1 Betfair Chase was unlikely to tell us anything we didn’t already know with Silviniaco Conti, Dynaste and CUE CARD once again locking horns. However, the manner in which Cue Card routed his rivals was stunning and once again proved that stars of the past can be rejuvenated and return to their awesome best. With the strength in depth in the staying chase division this time around, it is hard to get too carried away with the prospect of Colin Tizzard’s 9-year-old landing the King George to set up a tilt at the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the £1 million bonus. However, he looked better than ever on Saturday, so he certainly goes into the race with a live chance and what a wonderful story it would be.
FALCON CREST made an encouraging start to his hurdling career when scoring impressively in a two mile maiden hurdle at the beginning of the month. He contested the Grade 2 novices’ hurdle at Navan on Sunday which was a significant step up in class and he took it in his stride, running out a comfortable 6 ½ length winner. Although I think that this race was a relatively weak Grade 2 contest, I was pleased with the manner in which Falcon Crest quickened after making a mistake at the last and he looks a horse with a bright future. Barry Geraghty commented that he was concerned about the extra four furlongs and that is worth considering when he takes another rise in class. I expect that the Grade 1 Deloitte Novices’ Hurdle trip of 2m2f may prove ideal and therefore this could be considered as a post-Christmas target. Willie Mullins’ pre-race comments would have worried the supporters of his odds-on favourite in the concluding bumper at Navan after declaring that his filly shows very little at home. However, it appears that AUGUSTA KATE leaves all of her best work for the racecourse and she followed up a debut success at Listowel with another devastating display in this Listed contest. Patrick Mullins always sat confidently aboard the 4-year-old daughter of Yeats and she showed a beautiful turn of foot to scoot clear of a decent looking field. It is understood that the mares’ bumper at Aintree in the spring is the likely target, a contest that is already starting to hot up on paper with Warren Greatrex stating that this is the end of season target for his exciting filly La Bague Au Roi.