THERE is no doubt sterner tests await State Man (155+), even in the short term, as he builds towards the Champion Hurdle. However, as a starter for ten this was an impressive beginning to his season.
As stated by trainer and jockey following this routine win, there is room for improvement in the hurdling department, although there is no mistaking, he possesses the engine to be competitive in March as his finishing effort off a strong pace on Sunday demonstrated.
The Grade 1 Morgiana Hurdle winner was at least 20 lengths superior to the other hurdle winners over the final circuit, with Nusret (120+) the closest pursuer, quickening sharply on the home bend to finish his race from the third last hurdle in 57.5secs without being fully extended.
Joseph O’Brien’s juvenile posted 59.8secs for his closing sectional. The son of Golden Horn looks a classy recruit to juvenile hurdling with his flat profile including a sixth to Soulcombe in the Melrose Stakes at York.
Monbeg Park (126+) was fastest of the two longer distance hurdles, although the five-year-old’s closing sectional of 61.7secs was eclipsed by Shewearsitwell (110+) who came home in 58.4secs.
The Mullins mare denied My Immortal (110+) who looked to have his field covered jumping the final hurdle. Barry Connell’s gelding can gain compensation when granted a stronger pace as his slick hurdling will be more of an asset.
The chases were impacted by the fences in the back straight being removed so the track was less demanding as a jumping test than normal.
Although, for the record I would suggest the performance of Farceur Du Large (140+) as the best of the two races over the larger obstacles on the day.
The races were equal overall and until late on the final circuit they were also evenly matched in a shortened race. However, Noel Meade’s gelding edged the closing sectional analysis completing his race from the fourth last fence in 66.0secs, compared to the 68.0secs taken by Grade 2 winner Darrens Hope (134).
Saturday saw the chase debut of Kilcruit (143+) who, without being too critical of him, never quite reached the heights over hurdles which his bumper form promised. However, the way he greeted his debut at his new discipline suggests he will more than make amends over fences.
Paul Townend was happy to use front-running Willywampus (134) as a target with his mount jumping fluently through the formative stages of the contest. A split screen comparison with Midnight Run (138+) showed the two protagonists in the beginners chase to be ahead of the Grade 2 runners confirming a strong pace.
After leading at the fourth last, Townend looked intent on allowing the seven-year-old to coast home, although after a sloppy jump at the penultimate fence, the champion jockey kept the revs up down to the final fence to seal victory. The gap between the two races over the final circuit reduced in the closing stages with the two winners crossing the line simultaneously.
Queens Brook (143+) put a disappointing seasonal debut at Limerick behind her with an impressive display in the listed mares’ contest. A fastest time figure when adjusted for distance was complimented by a finishing effort of 59.5secs from the third last. In comparison The Model Kingdom (134+), who was next fastest overall, covered the same ground in 62.7secs. All roads lead back to the Mares Hurdle at Cheltenham for Gordon Elliott’s mare.
The way in which The Model Kingdom’s race developed would suggest she will improve for stepping up in trip. The five-year-old was well suited by the exaggerated waiting tactics employed on Saturday and will not be out of place in graded company.
Although slower overall when adjusted for distances, Absolute Notions (122+) was faster through the closing stages, stopping the clock at 58.4secs. I would suggest the first three home in the maiden hurdle are above average.
WILLIE Mullins and Paul Townend dominated the high-profile events on Clonmel’s feature day as the champion jockey first delivered Dolcita (149) with a perfectly timed challenge and then repeated the dose aboard Blue Lord (130+) to land the Grade 2 Clonmel Oil Chase.
The overall race times weigh heavily in favour of the mare as she covered the two and a half miles 10.1secs quicker.
However, the final circuit comparison brought the races closer together with just 0.6secs separating the Willie Mullins’ winners. In comparison, Courting Vicky (100) completed the final circuit 11.5secs slower. This was a perfect warm up for Tornado Flyer (130) as he heads to Kempton to defend his King George crown, while I would suggest a tracker entry for Ballyshannon Rose (149). Paul Fahey’s mare is at her best at either Fairyhouse or Thurles.
The chase debut of Jonbon (155+) at Warwick was the highlight of the midweek action in Britain. J.P. McManus’ gelding was accurate at his fences before coasting home and, as Swincombe Flame (95+) and Ramses De Teillee (134+) were faster through the final half mile, he could have rated much higher if asked to race all the way to the line.
Crystal Glory (145+), Hexham, Wednesday 16th November – eased to victory on his debut over fences and has the look of an above average staying chaser.
Gerri Colombe (140+), Fairyhouse, Tuesday 15th November – returned from a lengthy absence to post the best time of the day and looks an exciting novice chaser for the season ahead.
Saint Segal (135+), Chepstow, Friday 18th November – won going away in a good time and can score again on the evidence of the clock.