by The Final Flight Team

3/8/2016 12:19:04 PM

Monday 2nd – Sunday 8th November 2015


Fourth in last season’s Champion Bumper, Yanworth was selected as a horse to follow for the 2015/2016 campaign and he created a good impression when making his hurdles debut at Exeter on Tuesday, scoring by a comfortable 1 ¼ lengths. It is difficult to make a judgement on Yanworth’s hurdling technique as the thick fog meant that vison was impaired for the majority of the contest. However, based on his form in bumpers and an easy debut success over timber, this Alan King-trained gelding remains a horse with a serious amount of potential as a jumper. I expect him to make his presence felt at the highest level as a novice hurdler, with a stiff two miles or an easy two and a half miles likely to prove ideal.

Welsh Shadow – TOP PROSPECT

Welsh Shadow was handed a tough assignment on his hurdles debut, taking on Yanworth in the Plymouth Novices’ Hurdle at Exeter. He came into the race as a winner of his only start in bumpers and was certainly not disgraced by finishing a close second to the easy winner. I expect him to waste no time in shedding his maiden tag in this sphere before stepping up in class for his talented handler, Dan Skelton. Although he made his debut over the minimum distance, I think that he will show significant improvement when he is stepped up in trip to at least 2m4f and therefore, it would be no surprise if Skelton opts to target him at a 2m4f novices’ hurdle in the near future.


A £76,000 purchase following an impressive victory in his sole point, this brother to top prospect Shantou Village made his racecourse debut at Chepstow on Wednesday. I had high hopes for this 4-year-old son of Shantou, however, I was still surprised by the manner in which he travelled throughout the race and quickened up in fine style to score by an easy 2 lengths. It was reported that this gelding was purchased with minor problems but it appears that Tom George has ironed out any issues over the summer and based on his debut performance, he is an extremely exciting long-term prospect for his new connections. He looks more than capable of following up under a penalty in a similar event, however, with his size and scope, I expect him to be switched to hurdles at some point during this season.


Noel Meade’s grey gelding made his debut at Galway over 2m where he finished ½ a length behind Archive, also owned by Gigginstown House Stud. He was stepped up to 2m4f on Saturday at Naas and sent off the 1-4 favourite, he landed the odds in facile fashion, scoring by 29 lengths. In my opinion, the step up in trip was always likely to show him in a better light and it is possible that the easier underfoot conditions also suit this 4-year-old son of Martaline. Noel Meade has always held Disko in extremely high regard and following this maiden hurdle victory, I expect him to be competing at a higher level on his next outing. Noel Meade told the Racing Post the following post-race – “Disko is a good one. The dream is still alive. What more could he do? I know it wasn´t a great contest. Bryan said the ground and the trip suited him better and that he has a great cruising speed. He skipped over his hurdles well. I know there are a lot of good horses out there but he is definitely a good one”.

Clondaw Banker – HANDICAPPER

Clondaw Banker, a horse that was starting to frustrate punters after being a beaten favourite on a number of occasions, made his second start of the season at Sandown on Sunday after finishing sixth on his seasonal reappearance at Cheltenham. He was sent off second favourite behind the highly-regarded Paul Nicholls-trained Vicenzo Mio, where he travelled powerfully throughout and quickened up inside the final furlong to win by 2 ½ lengths. He appeared to appreciate the 2m4f trip at Sandown and remains a handicapper to follow after getting his head in front. On looks, he is a chasing type and therefore it would be no surprise if connections opt to send him over fences, with a handicap novices’ chase a likely starting point in that sphere.

Tycoon Prince – TOP PROSPECT

An emphatic winner on his hurdles debut, Tycoon Prince was expected to make it two from two over timber when sent off the 4/6 favourite for the Grade 3 Novices’ Hurdle at Navan on Sunday. However, he could only manage 3rd behind two smart prospects in Three Stars and Thomas Hobson, failing to quicken when Bryan Cooper asked him a serious question in the closing stages of the race. Although Tycoon Prince displayed plenty of speed in bumpers and on his hurdles debut, I have always regarded him as a staying chaser of the future and for that reason I am was not left too despondent following this defeat. I assume that his connections will step him up in distance now and I still believe that he will prove himself as one of the leading lights for Gordon Elliott’s stable for this season and beyond.   

Southfield Theatre - HANDICAPPER

Second in the RSA last season, Southfield Theatre made his seasonal reappearance in the Future Stars Chase at Sandown on Sunday and finished last of three behind Gold Cup winner Coneygree and Seventh Sky, a bitterly disappointing effort. His inclusion in ‘The Final Flight Jumps Guide’ was as a handicapper as I thought that he was fairly treated off an opening mark of 154, with races such as the Hennessy appearing obvious early season targets. It is likely that Southfield Theatre was in desperate need of this reappearance and although he was well beaten, I still have faith that he will win races during the 2015/2016 season.   

The week in brief

The week started with an excellent meeting at Kempton on Monday, where two horses caught my eye. The first was the Paul Nicholls-trained Port Melon who was making his eagerly awaited chase debut. This 7-year-old had always promised so much over hurdles and although he won a maiden hurdle at Taunton at prohibitive odds last season, he has not quite lived up to early expectations in my opinion. However, this dual point-to-point winner made a satisfactory start to his chasing career, scoring by 2 lengths in the novices’ handicap chase. It is understood that he has had a breathing operation during the summer which is likely to help him finish his races better and following this debut success, I expect him to be aimed at another novices’ handicap chase which he ought to be more than capable of winning of a revised handicap mark. A favourite of mine, Smad Place, made his seasonal reappearance on the same card and delighted his connections by getting his head back in front, beating Fingal Bay by 8 lengths. It is expected that this race will be used as a stepping stone to another crack at the Hennessy, a race that he tackled first time out last year and it would be no surprise if he shows up much better this time around.

I have long been a fan of the smooth travelling Vibrato Valtat and was therefore delighted that he proved himself as a high-class novice chaser last term. He made a successful seasonal reappearance in the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter on Tuesday and in doing so, enhanced his reputation as a horse that can compete at the highest grade as a second season chaser. I expect the Tingle Creek at Sandown will be his next target and in my opinion, this Paul Nicholls-trained gelding warrants the ultimate respect following a winning reappearance. 

Venetia Williams has an excellent record with her runners in November and Aso came within a neck of adding another victory to her tally in the 2m novices’ chase at Warwick on Wednesday. This 137-rated hurdler caught my eye last year as one with plenty of size and scope and therefore, I was excited for him to make his chase debut here. He can make amends for his debut defeat in a similar event and he ought to be capable at competing at a decent level over the larger obstacles.      

Ball D’Arc had ran in decent company in his two bumpers to date, firstly behind Charbel at Limerick and then behind Petit Mouchoir in the Goffs Land Rover Bumper at the Punchestown Festival.  He was fancied to get his head in front at Thurles on Thursday when sent of the 2/1 favourite and he did not disappoint, running out an easy 9 length victor. He travelled powerfully in the hands of Nina Carberry, quickening up in fine style, putting the race to bed in a matter of strides in the home straight. Similar to a lot of Gigginstown-owned horses, he looks one that will make a smashing staying chaser in the future. However, he demonstrated that he has a gear or two and I expect him to waste no time in scoring over hurdles when switched to jumping.

Multiple point-to-point winner Bally Beaufort made a winning chase debut at Aintree on Saturday and in my opinion, he is a chaser to keep on your side throughout the 2015/2016 campaign. Other than being untidy at the first ditch, he put his experience to good measure, jumping fluently throughout the contest and ran out an impressive 4 length winner. This Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained 7-year-old is an out and out stayer and therefore it was impressive that he was able to make a successful start to his chasing career at a galloping track like Aintree. Based on the evidence of this run, I expect Twiston-Davies holds this son of Old Vic in extremely high regard and it would be no surprise if the National Hunt Chase over 4m is pencilled in as his end of season target. It was 970 days since we last saw the Nicky Henderson-trained Simonsig on a racecourse and with that in mind, it was no surprise that National Hunt racing fans were eagerly awaiting his reappearance in Aintree’s new 2m4f Betfred Hurdle. A winner of the 2013 Racing Post Arkle, this high-class grey made an encouraging reappearance, appearing full of running under Barry Geraghty before getting tired in the closing stages, going down by 1 ½ lengths to stablemate Bobs Worth. Immediately after the race, Nicky Henderson confirmed that his exuberant racing style means that two miles is his ideal trip and it is understood that the Tingle Creek is next on his agenda. It remains a tricky proposition to predict whether he will ever regain his previous best, however, I am excited to see him return to fences and I still remain positive that he can compete at the highest level in that sphere. Gwencily Berbas was quietly fancied for the Fred Winter at Cheltenham in the spring, running a credible race to finish 9th, 7 lengths behind the winner, Qualando. He reappeared at Naas on Saturday in a Grade 3 hurdle and claimed the scalp of Grade 1-winning hurdler Petite Parisienne, scoring by a comfortable 8 lengths. There is no doubt that this Alan Fleming-trained 4-year-old is a chaser on looks but given his age, it is expected that he will remain over timber this season. He should have no problems in staying a longer trip as the season progresses and with further improvement likely, he is one to follow. It was reported that something was amiss with Big Chief Benny when disappointing at Ascot last season and he took an encouraging step forward at Wincanton on Saturday to finish 2nd. Based on his debut at Warwick and his latest effort, there is no doubt that he is capable of winning a bumper, however, I am excited to see this Alan King-trained gelding switched to timber. He looks to have plenty of size and scope to make a decent jumper and in my opinion, he is a sure fire winner of a novice hurdle.

All eyes were on the reigning Gold Cup winner Coneygree as he began his defence of his crown at Sandown on Sunday. His performance in March was simply mind blowing and he jumped superbly on his season reappearance to set him up perfectly for a tilt at the Hennessy Gold Cup later this month. He will be burdened with plenty of weight in that particular contest but he is built to carry the weight and with his undoubted class, I expect him to go very close. Even with a number of last season’s smart novices queuing up to take him on this time around, he is the one to beat in the Gold Cup at this stage and in my opinion, he should be the clear favourite. The concluding bumper at Sandown looked a reasonable contest on paper and the Emma Lavelle-trained Full Irish created a lasting impression, scoring by a comfortable 5 lengths. This son of Flemensfirth enters the notebook as a long-term prospect as it is expected that he will remain in bumpers for this season but unlikely to contest the championship events in the spring. He will be an exciting prospect to go hurdling with next season and assuming that he is able to show a reasonable level of progress, he is one that will be strongly considered for ‘The Final Flight Jumps Guide 2016/17’. Sixth in last season’s Champion Hurdle, Kitten Rock was useful hurdler last term and he made a smooth transition to fences when winning on debut at Navan on Sunday. He reached an official rating of 160 over hurdles and I expect him to prove a smart recruit to the larger obstacles with the Racing Post Arkle as a likely end of season target. His trainer told the Racing Post the following after the race, ‘Kitten Rock has not done one proper piece of work on grass, so I am greatly relieved. He´s so much heavier this year, and the ground has not been soft enough to do anything. I was on tenterhooks. Hopefully, that is the start of a very good campaign.’