Some superb racing over the Festive period, here are a few performances that stood out for us with a view towards Cheltenham in March.
Leopardstown, Sir Gerhard
A very impressive hurdles debut, where he made all and pretty much won in a hack canter. He jumped well and was never asked a question by Paul Townend to win by 8 lengths, it could easily have been 20 if he so wished. The suggestion is he may head straight to the Dublin Festival and then Cheltenham, where the Supreme Novices Hurdle looks to be the most likely target. He’s proven at Cheltenham having won the NH Flat race there last season and looks a major player, even after just the one run over hurdles.
Leopardstown, Fil D’or
Put himself at the head of the Triumph Hurdle betting with a 7 length victory in the Grade 2 Juvenile Hurdle, having beaten the runner up by just over a length last time. He seemed to enjoy the softer ground here, whereas the runner up seemed to tire in the conditions, so perhaps the winning margin flatters him a little. He’s certainly strong at the end of his race and does currently set the standard in the Juvenile division but may well require soft ground to be at his best.
Leopardstown, Ferny Hollow
Giving lumps of weight away to the 2nd, he was really good over his fences putting in a very good performance on only his 2nd run over fences and just his 7th run under rules. He very much sets the standard for the Arkle at this point, has the size and scope for fences and is proven at Cheltenham having won the NH Flat race in 2020. It would be nice to see him get one more run over fences before Cheltenham, from a jumping experience viewpoint.
Put in an exemplary round of jumping to defeat Ahoy Senor in the Kauto Star Novices Chase, stamping himself as the leading staying Novice Chaser in England. He’s an exceptional jumper for a novice gaining ground on his rivals at each fence, and quickened away from his rival from the 2nd last. This was a very good performance, although he would be better suited by a speed track like Kempton, than perhaps Cheltenham. That said, connections have a serious chaser on their hands and have suggested Cheltenham wasn’t the be all and end all for this horse, so he could easily skip the festival for Aintree instead.
Kempton, Tornado Flyer
Put in a career best to win the King George in a race where he was given a really good patient ride by Danny Mullins. He travelled and jumped really well and stayed on best of all for an authoritative victory, despite the fall of stablemate Asterion Forlonge at the last. He may well not get the credit he deserves being a 25/1 winner, but it was a decent staying performance.
Won this in convincing style and looked really well suited by a strongly run race, the test of stamina in the soft ground as well as the testing conditions. He jumps his hurdles very well and found plenty for pressure, pulling away when asked for his effort. This is probably the best juvenile form in England so far this year and he looks a leading contender for the Triumph at Cheltenham.
Made a hugely impressive debut over hurdles for the Paul Nicholls yard having come over from France. Keen early on, he chased the leader until taking over turning into the straight and pulled clear for an emphatic victory. He may not have beaten much but the visual impression was very good and the time backs up that, suggesting he’s an above average juvenile.
Confirmed himself as a serious Arkle contender with an impressive win here giving weight to his rivals. He’s improving with each run over fences, his jumping is getting slicker, he travels well off a strong pace and finishes his races off really strongly. The turn of foot he produced when asked for an effort between the final 3 flights was really impressive. He’ll stay further which will help come Cheltenham, he’s a very good novice chaser.
Just for a brief moment as they turned for home Shishkin looked in a tiny bit of trouble, but he flew over the third from home and quickened away from his rivals like the top class horse that he is. He was then quick over the 2nd last before the overdrive kicked in and he sprinted clear of a couple of very good horses. A nice jump over the last, the race had been put to bed by then and he cruised home. He’s an exceptionally good chaser and if in the same form will be very hard to beat in the Champion Chase come March.
Leopardstown, Haut En Couleurs
Made am impressive chase debut and looking a natural over his fences. He travelled well behind the front running Mt Leinster and never looked like anything but the winner some way from home. Just asked to keep to his work after the last, he looked to have plenty left in the tank. The 4yo allowance helps and it will be interesting to see where connections aim him, as he looks a very exciting chaser and is completely unexposed considering he only ran twice as a juvenile hurdler last season, making his hurdles debut when 3rd in the Triumph Hurdle, which was an achievement in itself.
Leopardstown, Galvin & A Plus Tard
Galvin put in a career best here and showed he’s very much a player in a wide open year for the Gold Cup. Racing up with the pace he jumps well and travels nicely albeit might just not have the class of an A Plus Tard. That was shown when the market leader cruised up around the home turn to then slightly box Galvin in. To the winners credit, he then switched to make his challenge and finished best of all to get up close home. Galvin is a very strong stayer and the extra distance and stamina test at Cheltenham well play to his strengths.
A Plus Tard ran another cracking race and looked the winner turning for home, only to be run down close home. He’s a very classy stayer and may have just felt the effects of his race at Haydock on very soft ground. Both a major players for the Blue Riband event at Cheltenham in March.
Leopardstown, Galopin Des Champs
Put in a emphatic display of jumping on his chase debut to smash a fair field of novices by 22 lengths without ever coming off the bridle. Making the running, his jumping was very good for a horse jumping fences for the first time in public and he made a mockery of the opposition. It’s rare to see such a display and he looked like he could go round again. Connections are likely to want to get a little more experience in before Cheltenham, but he already looks the real deal and sets a very high standard in the staying novice chase division. He was breath taking.
Newbury, Stage Star
Put in an impressive display of hurdling to land the Challow in good style, much like stablemate Bravemansgame did last year, and in some ways he’s a similar type. He’s very efficient over his hurdles, travels well and found plenty when asked to stretch clear in style. He’s a future chaser like last years winner, but in the short term he’ll surely head to Cheltenham with a big chance in the Ballymore.
Cheltenham, L’Homme Presse
Giving weight away to his rivals, this was a very high class performance from a rapidly improving chaser. Making all, it looked like his pursuers were going to give him a real race approaching two out, but he picked up again when asked and quickened away and win by 10 lengths. This was a seriously good performance and he has to be considered festival material. This was run in a good time and the winner was extremely strong in the closing stages when comparing times to the big handicap run 35 minutes later.