Andy Holding assesses the best novices from this season, with two big priced recommendations for the RSA Chase
One of the great things about racing is trying to spot talent before everyone else does and, in obtaining some sort of edge, the knowledge can hopefully be turned into financial gain. Predicting where a horse might end up, in essence, is the key to all successful ante-post strategies, so let’s take a look at some of the best novices from this season– both hurdlers and chasers – and see what route they are likely to take.
SHISHKIN ran out a very game winner of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and, by all accounts, he seems likely to be embarking on a career over fences next season. This news will be well received in many quarters of those harbouring Champion Hurdle ambitions next term as there is no doubt Nicky Henderson’s gelding is talented enough to make an impact in a division that seemingly lacks any great strength in depth. Because of his frame and possible need for further, the decision to send the son of Sholohkov chasing is also one that makes plenty of sense and his combination of speed and stamina can be seen to good effect in the two-mile division.
Working from the Arkle Chase backwards, the six-year-old could take on board the Grade 2 Arkle Trial Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham in November and, providing he comes through that test with flying colours, he may take on board just one or two more races – depending on his jumping technique – before heading back there in March.
In what looked an above-average renewal of the curtain raiser at the festival, CAPTAIN GUINNESS is another who should develop into a smart performer at the highest level based on his display a month ago and it will be interesting to see what route connections choose for Henry De Bromhead’s gelding.
Brought down in the melee two hurdles out, the son of Arakan would have surely been involved in the finish if he had managed to stay upright and that theory puts him right up there with some of the very best seen during the season in this category. Having had just three starts over hurdles in a relatively short space of time there should be huge improvement to come from this lightly-raced five-year-old and, because he is so unexposed, the temptation to stick to the smaller obstacles and head down the Champion Hurdle route must be a huge consideration in what looks a fairly weak division (currently a big-looking 50-1).
That said, he does have the size and scope to make into a potentially top-class chaser and, being tutored by the master of his craft in that department, he may join his English counterpart in the two-mile chase division.
Back in third place, CHANTRY HOUSE shaped like he requires further and, having emerged from the point-to-point background, he is more likely to end up as an RSA candidate than an Arkle project, while the likes of ASTERION FORLONGES and ALLART are both very much chasers in-waiting. Runner-up, ABACADABRAS, has been dealt with in a previous article surrounding the Champion Hurdle.
One likely to stay over hurdles is sixth-placed EDWARDSTONE and he could be a very dangerous recruit to the handicap ranks in the early part of the new campaign. Quietly-fancied to run beyond his 25-1 status in the Supreme, Alan King’s gelding did not disgrace himself despite being beaten the wrong side of 20 lengths and, as a second-season novice who boasts a pretty impressive cv against some of the best of his generation, a mark of 142 looks more than workable. Indeed, knowing how well he tends to go fresh, the son of Kayf Tara is likely to be targeted at the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham’s November fixture and, hailing from a yard which has landed that valuable handicap twice in the last three years with similar types Elgin and Harambe, that event appears the logical aim.
The other unbeaten novice whose career is likely to take a different path is ENVOI ALLEN and it is just a question of whether it will be over shorter or further than the 2m4f journey his victory was obtained at the Cheltenham Festival. Very strong in the backend of that truly-run Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, the immediate reaction was to think Gordon Elliott’s gelding will be aimed at the RSA Chase next season and, while that may turn out to be the case, it would also be foolish to ignore the possibility of him taking the two-mile route for the Arkle.
Clearly not devoid of speed based on his earlier victory in the Royal Bond at Fairyhouse where he claimed the notable scalps of Abacadabras and Darvers Star to name but two, the son of Mutathir is simply a very smart horse whatever the distance. It is also worth pointing out, winners of the Ballymore tend to fare best over shorter trips in their future careers, highlighted by the exploits of Istabraq, Hardy Eustace, Peddlers Cross, Simonsig, The New One, Faugheen, Yorkhill and Samcro to name a few in recent times so, using these great names as a guide, his skills maybe better utilised over the minimum distance at a stiff track such as Cheltenham.
Interestingly, he is currently 4-1 favourite for the Marsh Chase, head of the market at 5-1 generally for the RSA Chase, yet a dismissive 14-1 for the Arkle. Knowing how David Thompson and the Cheveley Park team like to operate, the former race would seem an unlikely target based on its lack of prestige (they avoided running Allaho in favour of the RSA when it seemed logical he would go for the Marsh) so if it came between a toss-up between the other two, the latter contest would appear just as likely at this stage. Obviously, his early exploits in novice events will determine the eventual outcome, but either way, 14-1 seems a crazy price weighing up all the facts.
Of those beaten in the Ballymore, the other ready-made chaser looks to be the third home, THE BIG GETAWAY (best price 25-1), and he should also turn out to be an exciting recruit. Built like the proverbial brick outhouse, this season over hurdles was always going to be seen as just a pre-cursor to a career over fences, so to finish third in a Grade 1 at the Cheltenham Festival has to be a seen as an extremely positive return.
A 30-length winner of his only start in an Irish point (main market rival Diol Ker fell when disputing three out), the Willie Mullins-trained gelding is clearly going to be seen to good effect when stamina is at a premium, so he appears a likely RSA Chase candidate at this stage, for which he is currently a 25-1 shot.
Runner-up to Envoi Allen, EASYWORK has an overall profile to suggest he could be fairly flexible regards distance, although it has to be said, most of his best form prior to Cheltenham was over two miles. Back in fourth, THE BIG BREAKAWAY is another who should take high rank over the larger obstacles this coming season and races such as the Kauto Star and Reynoldstown Novices’ Chases, often used by Colin Tizzard with his best youngsters, seem appropriate pre-Cheltenham targets.
The Albert Bartlett is usually a rich source of future chase winners and this season’s renewal should turn out to be no different, with the first four home all having the kind of potentially and profiles to suggest they could scale even greater heights.
MONKFISH, the winner of the three-miler, exhibited the level of battling qualities that are likely to be seen to even better advantage once greater demands are placed upon him and he boasts a frame that suggests his remaining body of work will be over fences. Despite racing keenly throughout the early part of the contest at Cheltenham, he found plenty for pressure when required and it comes as no great surprise to see him towards the head of the market for the 2021 RSA Chase.
Both LATEST EXHIBITION and FURY ROAD lost nothing in defeat in their toughest assignments to date and they appear ready-made chasers from outfits that know a thing or two about staying chasers. The former, who possesses a stamina-laden pedigree, probably could have done with a stronger gallop than he received on the day so the fact he still had the requirements to go with the main players all the way to the line is testimony to his mindset. Races like the Drinmore and Flogas Novices’ Chase are bound to come into the mix where Paul Nolan’s gelding is concerned and, providing he comes through early season targets with his reputation intact, the RSA seems the natural end-game for this likeable sort.
The combination of being Gigginstown-owned and hailing from a point-to-point background strongly suggests the latter will have an even brighter future over fences than he has already enjoyed and he is yet another potentially top-class prospect in the same division.
The body language of Richard Johnson after the line told you all you needed to know about how he felt pulling up on THYME HILL and it would come as no great surprise if Philip Hobbs’ gelding made up for what can only be described as a trouble-stricken passage in the latter stages of the Albert Bartlett. Trying to go for a daring run between Monkfish and Latest Exhibition on the run down to the last, the son of Kayf Tara ended up being the meat in the sandwich and when forced to switch out wide couldn’t get going in time to overhaul the first three home up the hill.
Having proven himself the best home-based staying prospect of the season on the run-up to Cheltenham, he left the Cotswolds with his reputation firmly intact and remains a horse with the utmost potential going forward whichever discipline connections choose for him next term.
Two that did not appear at the Cheltenham Festival, but are certainly worth noting for next season are DIOL KER (best price 40-1) and CEDARWOOD ROAD.
The former boasts the distinction of claiming the scalp of Monkfish in a maiden hurdle at Fairyhouse back in November that was noted for its unusually fast time figure and it came as no surprise to see the likes of Escaria Ten, Opposites Attract and Marshalled, along with the runner-up of course, all pay handsome complements to the form subsequently.
Seeing out the trip best of all in the demanding heavy ground conditions, the son of Martaline marked himself down as a horse of some potential at the Co Meath venue and his next appearance on the racetrack was eagerly awaited. Entered in the Albert Bartlett, Coral Cup and Martin Pipe Handicap at the Cheltenham Festival, Noel Meade’s gelding, unfortunately, ended up being a notable absentee from those engagements, presumably through injury and, with Irish jump racing coming to an abrupt halt for the remainder of the season, we will now have to wait until next term to see him out again. Being a point winner from an outfit that traditionally like to crack on with their stock’s chasing careers, one would imagine the six-year-old will be sent over fences straight away and if he turns out to be half as good as his hurdle form indicated, he should end up being one the most prominent performers in his new discipline.
The latter, a lightly-raced five-year-old, made rapid strides from his opening hurdling bow at Fairyhouse to land a competitive maiden at Leopardsown in December before being pitched straight into Listed company for what turned out to be his final start of the season. He came through his toughest examination with flying colours that day. Due to round off his campaign at Punchestown, it might turn out to be a blessing in disguise that the son of Stowaway was unable to take up that engagement due to Coronavirus and this strapping chasing type should in no way be underestimated if he tackles the powerful Irish yards as he has already proven he is more than capable of holding his own for a trainer going places.
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