3/8/2016 12:17:13 PM
Monday 26th- Sunday 1st November 2015
Tycoon Prince – TOP PROSPECT
Tycoon Prince is a horse that I have always thought the world of and therefore, it was no surprise that he made a winning start to his hurdling career at Punchestown on Tuesday, albeit at long odds-on. A winner of his three starts in bumpers last term, Gordon Elliott has always regarded this son of Trans Island as a long-term chasing type but based on his debut over timber, it appears that he will prove to be well above average in the hurdling ranks. He will need to settle better when he is upped in class as he showed signs of inexperience throughout the race but he clearly has plenty of gears and I would be disappointed if he does not prove himself at the highest level this winter.
Hawkhurst – POINT-TO-POINTER
An impressive winner of his sole point-to-point who changed hands for £200,000 at Brightwells in January and now runs in the colours of leading owner, JP McManus. He made a satisfactory racecourse debut at Stratford on Thursday when second to race-fit rival, Ballydine and considering that a number of Paul Nicholls’ horses have benefited from their seasonal reappearances, it will be no surprise if he comes on significantly for this debut effort. Given the fact that he has started his hurdles career over 2m6f, Nicholls clearly thinks that this horse is one for the staying novice hurdle division and I expect him to shed his maiden tag in a similar event.
Onefitzall – TOP PROSPECT
A dark horse which was included in the ‘Top 40 Prospects’ this year after making an impressive racecourse debut at Uttoxeter in December, winning very easily by 15 lengths. He was subject to strong market support prior to his hurdling debut at the same venue on Friday and dispatched his 13 rivals with the minimum of fuss to score by 4 lengths. Based on his debut bumper win, I expected Onefitzall to waste little time in winning when switched to the hurdling ranks, however, I was extremely impressed by the manner in which he travelled throughout the race and galloped his rivals into submission to win easing down. It is understood that his connections hold him in high regard and with a step up in class imminent, this 5-year old gelding is one to get excited about.
Garde La Victoire – TOP PROSPECT
Philip Hobbs’ gelding showed plenty of ability over timber when recording victories in the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham and the Contenders Hurdle at Sandown last term but I have always regarded him as a chasing type and was therefore excited to see him declared for the beginners chase at Uttoxeter on Friday. It was no straightforward task with the re-opposing Bristol De Mai in the line-up but Garde La Victoire showed an excellent attitude to make a winning start to his career over the larger obstacles. The eventual runner-up Bristol De Mai travelled menacingly into the home straight but Garde La Victoire responded well to his jockeys urgings, winning by a going away 7 lengths at the line. He got in close to a couple of his obstacles and he will need to improve in that department when he tackles better company but there is no need for major concern at this early stage. His trainer has already highlighted him as the stables most likely Arkle runner and given that he is only a 6-year-old, he is open to plenty of improvement, especially now tackling fences.
Red Hanrahan – POINT-TO-POINTER
Another Paul Nicholls-trained ex-pointer, Red Hanrahan, made his hurdling debut at Wetherby in the 2m3f novices’ hurdle and looked to have the race at his mercy, before coming to grief at the third last. He is a horse that really caught my eye when running out an impressive winner of his point-to-point and his debut effort proved that he has enough ability to make his mark as a hurdler. Given the manner in which he travelled to the point of his departure, it is expected that he will be a short price to make amends on his next outing and he remains an exciting prospect for the champion trainer.
Cultivator – TOP PROSPECT
Nicky Henderson’s gelding probably slipped under the radar following a quiet introduction to the racecourse at Newbury in March, finishing third behind the Alan King-trained The Unit. However, he impressed me by the way that he travelled that day, with his early exuberance costing him a number of lengths when push came to shove inside the final furlong. Therefore, I felt that he was well worth his place in the ‘Top 40 Prospects’ for the 2015/2016 campaign. He reappeared in the concluding bumper at Ascot on Saturday, a race that Henderson has previously won with Riverside Theatre and again travelled powerfully for Barry Geraghty, eventually scoring by 2 ¼ lengths. Although I expected that Cultivator would be switched to hurdles during this season, it was reported after the race that he might be saved for the spring bumpers, particularly Aintree. Regardless of which route connections choose to take, he clearly has plenty of raw ability and he is most definitely one to follow.
Another Bill – TOP PROSPECT
After spending my summer watching all of the replays of last season’s bumpers, the Nicky Richards-trained Another Bill struck me as horse that was going to benefit significantly for the switch to hurdles and prove a novice hurdler to follow, especially in the North. I was clearly not the only one impressed by this gelding in bumpers as he was sent off the well-backed 4/9 favourite for his hurdling debut at Ayr on Saturday. It remains to be seen whether he bumped into a useful hurdling debutant in Cornborough, who it must be noted was race-fit from a recent outing on the flat, or whether he was in need of this seasonal reappearance. I was left slightly disappointed with his debut effort and although he is likely to win at the next time of asking, I advise that he is best watched at the likely prohibitive odds.
Saphir Du Rheu – TOP PROSPECT
World Hurdle runner-up Saphir Du Rheu made his seasonal reappearance at Carlisle on Sunday in the Listed Intermediate Chase and he put in a tremendous round of jumping to defeat The Young Master by a comfortable 7 lengths. He was last seen winning the Grade 1 Mildmay Novices’ Chase at Aintree’s Grand National meeting where I was extremely impressed with his performance and Sunday’s easy victory proved to me once more that he is a chaser with a huge future. It appears that the Hennessy Gold Cup is his next target and although he will have his share of weight, I expect him to prove hard to beat. Victory in one of the most prestigious handicap chases of the year would most definitely enhance his reputation as a genuine Cheltenham Gold Cup contender and I personally find it impossible to not get excited about this horse.
Barters Hill – TOP PROSPECT
Unbeaten in bumpers last term, Barters Hill proved himself as a very smart individual when scoring in the championship bumper at Aintree’s Grand National meeting. As expected, Ben Pauling switched his stable star to hurdles at Huntingdon on Sunday and he again displayed an excellent attitude to score by a comfortable 14 lengths. His jumping was satisfactory throughout and although the race lacked depth, he is a likeable sort and I expect him to continue to progress during the season. He was under pressure at the top of the straight with the eventual runner-up stalking him and therefore it will be no surprise if he shows his best form when tackling staying trips. The Neptune Novices’ Hurdle or the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle remain as the end of season targets.
North Hill Harvey – POINT-TO-POINTER
Dan Skelton decided to take on Barters Hill at Huntingdon with his point-to-point winner North Hill Harvey and he was far from disgraced on his hurdles debut. A mistake at the second last ended any chance of causing an upset on this occasion but he showed plenty of promise by going with the smart winner for a long way and he should waste little time in going one better.
The week in brief
A good week for my ‘notebook’ horses with four successful on a busy Saturday in England and Ireland. Nabucco (7/2) and Altior (4/5) scored at Ascot, Southfield Royale (7/4) was impressive at Wetherby and Don Cossack (2/11) as expected, proved far too good for his three rivals at Down Royal.
There was plenty to take note of in the final week in October; with a number of the leading stables both sides of the Irish Sea unleashing some seriously talented horses in the past 7 days.
Dan Skelton has made an excellent start to 2015/2016 campaign registering 36 wins to date and Two Taffs, who was a close third on his hurdles debut at Bangor on Tuesday, looks a horse that can add to his excellent handlers tally in the future. This son of Flemensfirth came with what looked to be a winning run approaching the final obstacle, only to make a mistake that in my opinion cost him a debut victory. He showed signs of inexperience when he was asked a serious question on the drive to the line and I expect that him will improve significantly for this outing. On the same card the Alan King-trained Criq Rock won the concluding bumper by 11 lengths, again enhancing the form of stablemate The Unit’s win at Newbury in March. Given the manner of his victory, it is expected that he is more than capable of winning a bumper under a penalty before switching to novice hurdles.
Last season’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle third Sizing John made his chase debut at Punchestown on Tuesday in the 2m Beginners Chase and as expected, he made a winning start under this new code. Although it is difficult to assess the form at this early stage, Sizing John jumped with fluency throughout – a trait often associated with Henry De Bromhead’s novice chasers, and I expect him to prove himself at the very highest level over the larger obstacles. A Grade 1-winning novice hurdler over 2m last term, I expect him to be stepped up in trip as the season progresses with the long-term target likely to be the JLT Novices’ Chase at the 2016 Cheltenham Festival. After the race Henry De Bromhead told the Racing Post the following, “He jumped brilliantly and I wouldn´t be opposed to stepping him up in trip in time. He might come back here next month for the Craddoxtown Novice Chase, we´ll see how he is”. No More Hereos, third in last season’s Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, also made his debut over fences on the same card in the 2m4f Beginners Chase. He too made a winning start in this sphere and in doing so, this former point-to-point winner proved himself as a leading contender for the RSA at Cheltenham next March. This gorgeous looking son of Presenting has always looked a chaser in the making and although he clearly has a decent turn of foot, it is expected that he will show plenty of improvement when stepped up in trip in the coming months.
I have been waiting for some time to see the highly-regarded Tombstone reappear following his bumper victory in January earlier this year, therefore, I was extremely excited when he was declared for the concluding bumper at Down Royal on Friday. Gordon Elliott thinks the world of this 5-year-old gelding and given that he’s a grand chasing type, it is encouraging that he is now a dual bumper winner following his facile 11 length victory. He will now be switched to timber, where I expect he will win plenty of races but he enters the notebook as a long-term chasing prospect and one that I hope can prove himself as a Grade 1 performer in the future.
The Beginners Chase at Uttoxeter on Friday was billed as a match between Garde La Victoire and Bristol De Mai and the race did not disappoint with the former winning by a comfortable 7 lengths at the line. However, the runner-up, a relatively inexperienced 4-year-old, was keen early on but was still full of running into the home straight before getting tired in the closing stages and therefore, I feel there is plenty more to come from Nigel Twiston-Davies’ gelding. He should be able to make use of his 4-year-old allowance to his advantage in a similar event and shed his maiden tag over fences in no time. The 78 rated flat performer Our Thomas made a winning start to his career over hurdles when successful in a Maiden Hurdle at Wetherby in the middle of October. He took a good step forward on Friday at the same venue to finish third behind two useful sorts, Leoncavallo and Sceau Royal, in the Listed Juvenile Hurdle. He travelled strongly before making an error at the last flight of hurdles, a mistake that ended his chances and he eventually finished just over 4 lengths behind the front pair. He proved that he has a decent level of ability with this effort and although I feel that he will fall short the best juvenile hurdlers, he is more than capable of winning races. It is possible that he could be aimed at the Fred Winter in the spring, a race that trainer Tim Easterby and owner Trevor Hemmings teamed up with Hawk High to win in 2014.
Altior won the 2m Novices’ Hurdle at Ascot on Saturday in taking fashion but I could not help but be impressed by Ch’Tibello who finished a close second, 20 lengths clear of dual hurdles winner Vancouverite. He appeared to have benefitted from a recent outing at Fakenham, where he finished a close second to the John Ferguson-trained Francis Of Assisi and given the talent that he clearly possesses, he is likely to shed his maiden tag over hurdles at the next attempt. Pendra has been a frustrating horse to follow in the past two seasons but has always shown plenty of ability and I was thrilled to see everything come together at Ascot on Saturday for Charlie Longsdon’s gelding. His jumping has often been his Achilles heel but he measured his obstacles perfectly on Saturday and assuming that the handicapper isn’t too harsh, he is one to follow in 3m handicap chases. One of my biggest disappointments at the Cheltenham Festival last season was Ptit Zig in the JLT Novices’ Chase where he could only manage a tame fifth behind Vautour but that run was following a heavy fall at Ascot and that may have been reason that he underperformed in March. He made his seasonal reappearance at Down Royal on Saturday in the Grade 2 Powers Irish Whiskey Chase, a race which his trainer Paul Nicholls has a tremendous record in and Nicholls was again victorious as Ptit Zig ran out a convincing 9 ½ length winner. It was impressive that he was able to dispatch race-fit rival Clarcam with such ease and given that I feel he will improve further when he is stepped up in trip, he could be a forgotten horse in what looks an outstanding staying chase division this term. The Gordon Elliott-trained Death Duty made his debut in the sales bumper at Fairyhouse, finishing third behind Willie Mullins’ Castello Sforza. Although a weaker race than his debut, he made amends when running out an impressive winner of the bumper at Down Royal on Saturday, 16 lengths clear of his nearest rival. Similar to Tombstone, he looks a lovely long-term prospect and his smart handler is likely to take his time with him for the remainder of the season. Assuming that he is switched to hurdles, he should easily be capable of winning in that sphere but I have reservations as to whether or not he will be targeted at the spring festivals this time around. He is definitely one to follow, especially as a chaser.
Huntingdon played host to what looked an above average novices’ chase on Sunday, a race that was won by the former smart juvenile hurdler, Sametegal. The winner was making his chase debut after a long break and I was impressed with his performance, however, it was the third-placed Three Musketeers that caught my eye. A bold jumping display from this Dan Skelton-trained gelding was what impressed me most and given that he took up the running from an early stage, it was no surprise that he tired in the closing stages. Like the winner, he is entitled to come on for his seasonal reappearance and he remains an exciting recruit to the larger obstacles.