He was a decent hurdler over 2m-2m4f last season, which also included a valuable payday for connections with a second in France, and I thought he shaped with a fair bit of promise first time up over 2m5f at Ascot. Yes, he finished last of four but he wasn’t beaten that far in the end after doing well to stay on his feet after a bad mistake up the straight first time around. The winner Politologue looks a very good prospect and the third in the race, Royal Vacation, didn’t do the form any harm when winning the Kauto Star for me on Boxing Day, however fortunate that victory was. This is another good race, as you’d expect, but if he stays this 3m trip and has progressed from Ascot then he has chances here. He should love the testing ground, too.
I won the EBF handicap hurdle final on this horse at Sandown last season and it is fair to say that I think an awful lot of him. And that is I why I have been devastated by both of his defeats in novice chases this season, because he should have won them both easily. He was going to beat the smart Potters Legend with his head in his chest over 3m at Kempton first time up, only to make a complete mess of the last and doing well to stay upright, and he was again travelling smoothly and looking set to win when brought down, albeit it was 3 out, at Wincanton last time. We bring him back to hurdles here off what looks a very fair mark, and he certainly has the talent to win this.
He was a good staying chaser when with Mick Channon and we got him in the summer. From what he showed us at home we thought we had inherited a well-handicapped horse, but it is always a relief when they go and do it on the track, as he did for us at Ayr in November. We aimed him at the Welsh National after that so we were gutted when he was balloted out – you have to be rated so highly to even get into these valuable handicaps these days – but we think we have a fair chance of gaining compensation of sorts here. He has gone up 7lb for that Ayr win but the longer trip and soft ground should suit him, and I’ll be disappointed if he isn’t in the first four at least. I actually think he has been crying out for this trip and even though there are quite a few front-runners in here, he has the pace to jump and travel. And that is crucial in contests like these. He is a favourite in the yard and I am very keen on his chances.
The Floating Bear
He is related to a couple of winners (his full-brother won on the soft in Ireland) and he goes nicely enough at home. Everything that Fergal runs in bumpers this season is worthy of note – his 29 per cent strike rate tells you that – but he is a big, raw, 6yo who could need the run and experience more than some of ours. But we will find out a lot about him here.
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