3/8/2016 12:13:31 PM
Monday 12th- Sunday 18th October 2015
Relic Rock – HANDICAPPER
A useful bumper horse who had a rather frustrating campaign over hurdles last season and was subsequently given a handicap mark of 120. It was expected that he would be more than capable of competing is handicap hurdles off that mark but his connections decided to start this season in a novices’ handicap chase at Carlisle on Thursday, where he ran an encouraging race to finish second to the progressive Charlie Longsdon-trained Germany Calling. He jumped well for his first start over the larger obstacles and although he was ultimately not good enough to match the winner (Relic Rock was in receipt of 14lbs), his connections ought to find plenty of winnable opportunities in the coming months. It is possible that he may appreciate a step up in trip and therefore it would be no surprise if Brian Ellison opts for a novices’ handicap chase over 2m4f as the next port of call.
Shantou Village – TOP PROSPECT
This Neil Mullholland-trained point-to-point and bumper winner made his eagerly awaited hurdles debut on the same card at Carlisle on Thursday in the 2m4f “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle, running out an impressive 19 length winner. The form of his point-to-point victory has been franked on numerous occasions with runner-up Fingerontheswitch and third-placed Ballykan winning 6 races between them since switching from that sphere and Shantou Village looks a really exciting long-term prospect. His future lies over fences but his debut over timber was easy on the eye and it can now be expected that his connections will opt to step him up in class. He was introduced into the Supreme (40/1) and Neptune (33/1) Novices’ Hurdle markets following his effortless victory and although many may expect him to fall short at a higher level, I have every confidence that he can make his presence felt in Graded hurdles throughout the course of this winter.
Knock House – HANDICAPPER
Mick Channon’s Knock House made his seasonal reappearance in the October Handicap Chase over 3m at Fakenham on Thursday, where he was the well-backed 10/11 favourite to get his season off to the perfect start. He travelled menacingly for much of the race, looming upsides the leader turning for home, only to be out-stayed by a very game Open Hearted. The winner was race fit after making his debut for his new yard at the start of the month and with fitness clearly telling late on, I can confidently say that the runner-up will come on for the run and prove himself a well handicapped horse. It is expected that big fields will suit this horse as he is a strong traveller and he should continue to be competitive in races between 2m4f and 3m in the coming months.
The week in brief
Vancouverite and Where’s Tiger locked horns for a second time in the novices’ hurdle at Sedgefield on Monday. A fine front-running display had seen Where’s Tiger to best effect at Perth when in receipt of 7lbs but it was a different story off level weights this time around. John Ferguson’s gelding, a 109 rated performer on the level, made amends for his defeat by running out an easy 12 length victor and in doing so, confirming himself as a useful recruit to the National Hunt sphere. Rated 132 over hurdles, he looks fairly treated and by the manner in which he travels through his races, he looks a type that will be suited by strongly run handicap hurdles over the minimum distance.
It was another Ferguson-trained horse that caught my eye at Huntingdon on Tuesday, this time in the form of Nabucco. Another smart flat performer, Nabucco was beaten on his hurdles debut by the consistent Cardinal Palace but justified the promise of his debut performance by running out an easy winner on his next start at Market Rasen. He was the 1/5 favourite to follow up under a penalty at Huntingdon and he duly obliged winning by a very easy 11 lengths to the Nigel Twiston Davies-trained Ballyarthur. With the runner-up being a newcomer it is difficult to assess the form of this race, however, visually he looked to have took another step forward and he is another one that could be worth following in 2m handicaps.
I was extremely excited to see Potters Corner make his second appearance over hurdles at Wetherby on Wednesday following an impressive debut two weeks earlier. Unfortunately, Paul Morgan’s gelding failed to live up to expectations and finished a tame 3rd after lacking fluency in the jumping department. Although he was giving away weight to all but one of his rivals, his lacklustre performance was the disappointment of the week for me and he is now best watched. It will be interesting to see if connections opt to step him up in trip after looking rather one paced but it will need to bring out significant improvement if he is to compete at the highest level over hurdles. Twelve Roses and Southfield Royale were the two horses battling out the finish in the novices’ chase and it was the latter who I definitely want to keep on side in the coming months. Neil Mullholland’s lightly raced 5-year-old made an encouraging chase debut and with him being a half-brother to Southfield Theatre, his pedigree suggests that there will be more to come when he tackles a longer trip over fences.
All eyes were on superstar chaser Don Cossack on Thursday as he made his seasonal reappearance at Punchestown in the Grade 3 Irish Daily Star Chase over 2m7f. He jumped with fluency throughout and made light work of his rivals to land the odds by a very easy 12 lengths. Gordon Elliott found an ideal opportunity for his stable star to get his season off to a winning start and although tougher assignments await, he is again expected to make his presence felt at the very highest level. Now that he has proved that he stays the 3m trip, races such as the King George are a real possibility. The Game Changer and Gunnery Sergeant completed a treble for Gigginstown House Stud on the day and the latter looks like a horse with a bright future. He travelled well throughout the contest and showed a lovely attitude to fend off the challenge of the well-backed favourite, Golden Birthday. He looks like a type that may be suited by races between 2m4f and 3m when switched to hurdles but seen as he is only a 4-year-old, it is expected that he will be given time to mature and he could contest another bumper under a penalty.
The novices’ chase was the most intriguing race at Fakenham on Friday with smart hurdler Hammersly Lake making his chase debut against the Paul Nicholls-trained Katgary. Hammersly Lake was held up before falling at the 7th fence, making the task much more straightforward for Katgary and he took advantage to win by a comfortable 7 lengths. However, in my opinion, it is Nicky Henderson’s Hammersly Lake that remains of interest as a novice chaser. He reached an official rating of 146 over hurdles, proving that he has plenty of ability and he looks like he has the scope to make an even better chaser.
With Champions Day at Ascot taking centre stage on Saturday, there was only one race to note over jumps and that was the novices’ chase at Market Rasen. Two useful juvenile hurdlers in Golden Doyen and Pain Au Chocolat made their chase debuts against the more experienced Fox Norton and it was experience that told in the end with Fox Norton winning under a penalty, ¾ of a length ahead of Golden Doyen. The runner-up caught my eye as a chaser of the future when winning a Grade 2 juvenile hurdle at Cheltenham last season and therefore it is no surprise that Phillip Hobbs has opted to switch him to fences so early on in his career. He showed an excellent attitude on his debut over the larger obstacles, staying on strongly on the run-in and I expect huge improvement when he encounters a stiffer test of stamina in the coming months. He is easily capable of winning a similar event with his 4-year-old allowance and I expect him to progress past his hurdles mark of 138 in this sphere.
Sunday’s meeting at Kempton was arguably the highlight of the week over jumps and Maputo proved himself as an extremely exciting novice hurdler when landing the Listed Novices’ Hurdle over 2m, rounding off a good week for his trainer, Ferguson. This was his fourth win in as many starts, with this certainly his toughest assignment to date and it was reported by Racing UK that William Hill quoted him as a 16/1 chance for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle post-race. He has to prove his effectiveness at a testing course and on softer ground before he could be considered for Graded races during the winter but he certainly has plenty of ability and is one to for his connections to get excited about. The New One reappeared in the Listed Hurdle over 2m and won in workmanlike fashion rather than one that oozed class. Although the slow gallop was far from ideal, it remains to be seen whether he is capable of competing at the very highest level in 2m hurdles. However, he would be of interest if connections decided to step him up in trip for a crack at the World Hurdle, especially with the staying hurdle division lacking a real superstar at present.