3/8/2016 12:25:12 PM
Monday 23rd to Sunday 29th November 2015
PETIT MOUCHOIR – Top Prospect
A winner of his sole point and bumper when trained by Gordon Elliott, Petit Mouchoir impressed me enough to warrant his inclusion in this year’s top prospects and he more than justified his early promise when running out an easy 3 length winner on his hurdles debut at Thurles on Thursday. Gordon Elliott has always held this gelding in high-regard and was understandably disappointed to see him be switched to Willie Mullins’ stable over the summer.
He was extremely keen throughout his first start over timber and for that reason, I expect him to be campaigned over the minimum distance for the time being. However, his new trainer has already stated that he feels he will stay further and assuming that he can learn to settle, he has the ability to prove himself in the very highest grade.
UN TEMPS POUR TOUT – Top Prospect
David Pipe was excited to switch French Champion Hurdle winner Un Temps Pour Tout to the larger obstacles and although he remains a maiden in that sphere, I remain confident that we haven’t seen the best of him yet. He has fallen short of expectations when a runner-up on both of his starts so far, most recently when finishing second to Native River in the Grade 2 novices’ chase at Newbury on Thursday. I wouldn’t describe him as a tremendous jumper but he is economical enough in that department and given the talent that he clearly possess, he should shed his maiden tag soon enough.
As predicted in this year’s jumps guide, the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase (formerly known as the Feltham Novices’ Chase) is his next target and given soft underfoot conditions, he is definitely a player. In my opinion, he still needs to prove that three miles is his best trip and for that reason, if he falls short at Kempton on Boxing Day, I wouldn’t be surprised if connections were to consider a race over an intermediate trip.
CHAMPERS ON ICE – Top Prospect
Runner-up behind exciting novice hurdler Shantou Village on his hurdling debut, this David Pipe-trained gelding gave a nice boost to the form when scoring at Newbury on Thursday. He appeared to be in need of his first outing of the season at Cheltenham and it was therefore unsurprising to see him come in for strong market support pre-race.
His jumping on the whole was satisfactory but he made two significant errors at the final two obstacles, where Tom Scudamore needed to be at his best to keep the partnership intact. In the end it was his class that got him through and although he clearly needs to brush up his jumping technique, he is capable of winning in a higher grade. He is ultimately a lovely staying chase prospect and therefore whatever he achieves over hurdles is likely to be a bonus.
IBIS DU RHEU – Handicapper
This half-brother to Saphir Du Rheu showed little in his two runs for Paul Nicholls last season after showing some smart form in France in early 2014. However, he struck me as one that would benefit for a summer at grass and I therefore felt that he was feasibly treated off a mark of 131. He was wearing a first time hood and tongue-tie on Saturday at Newbury and that appeared to help him settle in the early stages of the race.
He made steady progress throughout the race, finding plenty for Sam Twiston-Davies urgings and would have won with a few more strides. This was an extremely pleasing seasonal reappearance and with a longer trip likely to bring out further improvement, he should prove well worth following in handicaps. His elder sibling won the Lanzarote which is held at Kempton in January and that is a likely target for Ibis Du Rheu.
THISTLECRACK – Top Prospect
Thistlecrack proved himself as a very exciting staying novice hurdler when scoring in the Grade 1 at Aintree before finishing a close second to Killultagh Vic at Punchestown. Although I expected him to embark on a novice chase campaign this term, I considered him as a World Hurdle contender if connections kept him over the smaller obstacles and his seasonal reappearance only enhanced his chance in that particular race.
Tom Scudamore rode a patient race on the Colin Tizzard-trained 7-year-old and when he was asked to quicken after jumping the final hurdle, he readily drew clear. Granted the testing conditions that he encountered on Saturday, he was understandably getting tired in the closing stages but I expect he needed this reappearance and there is definitely more to come. He has the scope to jump a fence one day but given the level of form he is showing over hurdles, he deserves a crack at the Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot next month.
DEPUTY DAN – Handicapper
After failing to complete on his last two starts over fences, Oliver Sherwood opted to give Deputy Dan a confidence booster over hurdles at Newbury on Saturday and he emerged with plenty of credit, finishing second behind Thistlecrack. Following this run it will be interesting to see if connections remain over hurdles or switch back to fences. Personally, he will be of interest to me in handicap chases as he remains a horse with lots of potential and his handicap mark of 139 looks particularly lenient. His six lengths second in the Grade 2 Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase where he finished ahead of the 153 rated Virak, is the pick of his chasing form and based on that effort, there is a big prize to be won with this talented individual.
SAPHIR DU RHEU – Top Prospect
After a fine effort in last season’s World Hurdle, Paul Nicholls switched Saphir Du Rheu back to fences and he was a scintillating winner of the Grade 1 Mildmay Novices’ Chase at Aintree’s Grand National meeting on his final start of the season. He made a winning reappearance over the larger obstacles at Carlisle last month and was subsequently sent off the 9/2 favourite for Saturday’s Hennessy Gold Cup. I was particularly sweet on his chances and couldn’t help but be disappointed with his fifth placed finish. However, on reflection, he travelled within himself for the majority of the race and other than one error, his jumping was impeccable which is particularly pleasing. Although he couldn’t pick up when asked a serious question after the third-last, this was easily the toughest task that he has faced to date. News broke on Tuesday that connections have made the decision to revert back to hurdles with the World Hurdle being his Cheltenham Festival aim. In my opinion, he still has a big future in the staying chase division and with him only being a 6-year-old, there is every possibility that he will still be given an opportunity to fulfil his potential over the larger obstacles at some stage.
ONEFITZALL – Top Prospect
The Philip Hobbs-trained Onefitzall left a lasting impression when routing his rivals in a heavy ground bumper at Uttoxeter last season and was equal to that performance when running away with a 2m4f novices’ hurdle at the same venue last month. He was fully-expected to follow up his hurdling debut with victory at Leicester on Sunday but he failed to live up to expectations when appearing one-paced, eventually finishing third. Although I didn’t expect Onefitzall to be good enough to compete in graded hurdles, I thought that he would be more than capable of winning a novice hurdle under a penalty and I was therefore left disappointed with his latest effort. It will be interesting to see if anything comes to light but if not, he will be a horse to keep an eye out for in handicap hurdles later on in the season.
LUCKY PASS – Point-To-Point
Lucky Pass was an impressive 14 length winner of his sole point and that performance earned him a place in this year’s point-to-point section. He was subsequently sold for £140,000 to Harold Kirk on behalf of Willie Mullins and he made his rules debut in the concluding bumper at Fairyhouse on Sunday. Like in his sole point, he showed signs of inexperience on the run-in but he once again proved that he has plenty of class, winning by a comfortable 1 ½ lengths. He is a likeable type to send hurdling but I expect Mullins to target a winners’ bumper before switching to that sphere. He appears to have plenty of speed and stamina and it is likely that he will be suited to intermediate trips as a jumper.
The week in brief
TWO TAFFS entered the notebook after his encouraging hurdling debut last month and I hoped that he would go one better at Kempton on Monday but he unfortunately bumped into the speedier Brain Power. It is unlikely that the slow early gallop suited any of the nine runners but I feel that Dan Skelton’s gelding was definitely inconvenienced and for that reason, he remains a horse to follow in the novice hurdle division. I expect him to show significant improvement when tackling intermediate trips and it would be no surprise if his next start is over two mile four furlongs.
VANITEUX made his debut over fences on the same card and his 19 length success was a perfect start his chasing career. He does not feature in this year’s top prospects as I feel that he will ultimately fall short at the highest level but it was hard not to be impressed with this performance and he rates as an exciting novice chase prospect for Nicky Henderson.
Neil King holds MILANSBAR in high-regard and although only third of four runners at Wetherby on Wednesday, he made an encouraging start to his chasing career. His final-fence error ended any chance of making a winning start over the larger obstacles but seen as he reached a peak rating of 144 over hurdles, he is clearly talented. He strikes me as a horse with the size and scope to make an even better chaser and it shouldn’t be long until he is back in the winner’s enclosure.
CHARMIX disappointed when he was the well-backed favourite for a point-to-point bumper at Aintree in May but got his hurdling career off to the perfect start when winning at Wetherby last month. He appeared to take another step forward on Thursday at Newbury when running the Paul Nicholls-trained Modus close in the two mile novices’ hurdle. Although he was granted a soft lead, I was impressed with how he stuck to his task and with further improvement likely, he is one to follow.
Fly Du Charmil helped to set the strong early gallop in the concluding bumper on the same card and stayed on strongly to score for the in-form partnership of Warren Greatrex and Gavin Sheehan but it was the runner-up PURE VISION who caught my eye. He was given a patient ride from off the pace and crept into contention under a confident Barry Geraghty. He was only just denied by the game winner and I expect this 4-year-old to stay in bumpers for the remainder of the season with the valuable sales bumper at Newbury a possible target.
Runner-up in last season’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, SHANESHILL made his eagerly awaited chase debut at Thurles on Thursday and he made a winning start as the prohibitive odds suggested that he would. This son of Kings Theatre has always been held in high-regard by his connections and assuming that he transfers his hurdles form to the larger obstacles, he has a bright future under this code. Although he clearly has plenty of speed, I expect him to be best suited to intermediate trips when tackling better company over fences and therefore, the JLT Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival could be the ideal long-term target.
The juvenile hurdle on the second day of the Bet365 Hennessy meeting at Newbury was a tricky contest on paper but KASAKH NOIR turned it into a rout, travelling powerfully under Harry Skelton and bounding clear of his 8 rivals to score by 16 lengths. Although it is difficult to assess the juvenile hurdle division at this stage of the season, the manner in which Dan Skelton’s 3-year-old quickened was visually impressive. Based on this evidence, I expect Kasakh Noir to take a rise in class in his stride and is certainly another exciting recruit to Skelton’s blossoming stable.
I expect that the concluding maiden hurdle at Newbury on Friday is going to be a race well worth following in the future with the runner-up Wait For Me and Big Chief Benny both running credible races behind the impressive 11 length winner, BUVEUR D’AIR. The Nicky Henderson-trained 4-year-old was highly-tried in bumpers last season when twice behind Barters Hill and I was not surprised to see him make a winning start to his hurdling career. He is a strong traveller, a trait often associated to Henderson-trained horses and in my opinion, this was one of the best performances by a novice hurdler so far this season. Seven Barrows is the home to a number of smart novice hurdlers this year including Grade 2 winner Altior and William Henry and now that Buveur D’Air has begun to realise his potential, keeping them apart may prove the most difficult task.
Venetia Williams’ string are often in fine fettle during the month of November and it was therefore no surprise to see ASO run well to finish second in the fiercely competitive novices’ handicap chase at Newbury on Saturday. He was in good shape in the preliminaries and I feel that he was unfortunate to bump into a better handicapped horse in the form of Arzal. He also filled the runner-up spot at Warwick when making his chasing debut at the beginning of the month and following this promising run, I expect Williams to find a good opportunity for this talented 5-year-old to shed his maiden tag over the larger obstacles.
Alan King had a memorable day with Smad Place winning the Hennessy Gold Cup on Saturday but it was his MIDNIGHT PRAYER who earned a place in this week’s notebook with an encouraging comeback run in the 2m6f handicap chase. The trip on Saturday was on the short side but his strong finishing effort gave me encouragement that he retains the ability of his 2014 Cheltenham Festival success and off a handicap mark of 137, he is feasibly treated. Assuming that he is none the worse for his exertions, I expect that the Welsh National over the festive period will be the next target.
THE LAST SAMURI was switched to Kim Bailey’s stable in the close season and made his seasonal reappearance in the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle on Saturday. He ran well to finish third for his new stable and was only behind two race-fit rivals in Wakanda and Virak. Although he races from a handicap mark of 140, this 7-year-old strikes me as a progressive type and I feel that he is capable of winning of decent handicap chase during the 2015/2016 campaign.
For all that RASHAAN lacks in size, he certainly makes up for it in class and he once again proved that he is a very talented juvenile hurdler when running out an impressive winner of the Grade 3 juvenile hurdle at Fairyhouse on Sunday. Contrary to speculation that this 3-year-old son of Manduro would be sold to higher-profile connections following this victory, his owner and trainer have already made it clear that Rashaan is not for sale and that the Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown on December 26 is the next port of call. Understandably, he is currently the 12-1 favourite for the Triumph Hurdle next March and although it is far too early to be advising an ante-post wager on that particular race, he is clearly a horse with a big future and one that I already have a soft spot for.
In my opinion, NO MORE HEROES was an unlucky loser in last season’s Albert Bartlett but he has always looked like a chasing type and he is already starting to fulfil his potential in that sphere. An easy winner on his chasing debut at Punchestown last month, the Gordon Elliott-trained 6-year-old tackled the Grade 1 Drinmore Novices’ Chase at Fairyhouse on Sunday and he ran out a commanding 2 ½ length winner ahead of Monksland. This performance launched him to the head of the RSA betting, a race that his owners Gigginstown House Stud won last year with Don Poli. There is reason to believe that there is more improvement to come when tackling three miles and on that basis, he is a certainly a lively contender.