The National Hunt action is coming at us thick and fast now and the big guns are starting to unleash the shackles on some of their bigger names.
Aintree was the main focus of attention over the weekend but there were plenty of races to note elsewhere around the country; Chepstow and Wincanton both producing races that I will be watching with interest as the season develops further.
On Sunday we had the joy of 3 of the NTF ’20 to follow for the season’ runners hitting the track – producing 2 winners and 1 under par effort.
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The most impressive of the trio had to have been CLONDAW KAEMPFER (D McCain) who romped away with the 2m4f Novices’ Hurdle (Aintree 4.00 Sunday) in eye-catching fashion. He was ridden in supremely confident fashion by Jason Maguire and he is a horse that greatly excites me this season. I’m far from concerned about the prospect of him racing on better ground (yesterday was soft) and actually believe that it will bring about further improvement.
HANDAZAN (A King) ground out victory in the juvenile hurdle (Aintree 1.40 Sunday) and although still not looking all that clever over his obstacles he did seem to improve as the race went on and he did show plenty of guts in the finish. The front-running tactics seemed to help and he does look to be heading in the right direction.
COMEONGINGER (P Nicholls) was the disappointment of the 3 ‘to follow’ runners as he could only finish 8th on his hurdling debut at WIncanton (2.30 Sunday). It is interesting to note that he didn’t wear the tongue tie he supported in his Point-to-Point runs and you would expect to see that back on next time. If not then I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Nicholls send him for a breathing-op, he did find very little when the taps were turned to full.
Other runners from the weekend to note were –
MAD MAX (N Mullholand) – 4th in the Old Roan Chase (3.30 Sat Aintree) – He set a break-neck pace in this contest and was never going to be able to sustain that to the line. In the circumstances he did well to finish 4th and with the freshness now hopefully knocked out of him it will be interesting to see where he is aimed at going forward from here.
GEVREY CHAMBERTIN (D Pipe) and MANY CLOUDS (O Sherwood) – 1st and 2nd in the 2m Maiden Hurdle (5.10 Sat Aintree) – The 2 market leaders dominated proceeding here and both look likely to go on a steep upward curve as the season progresses. The main focus will likely be on the winner although we must not forget the runner-up. He only gave way in the final 1/2 furlong and he will surely be gracing the winners enclosure before long. He was considered good enough to contest both the Cheltenham and Aintree Champion Bumpers last term and looks a smart prospect.
BALLYBOUGH PAT (A Honeyball) – 2nd in the Persian War Hurdle (3.40 Sat Chepstow) – The 5yo did his best to serve it up to the well regarded WONDERFUL CHARM and for a brief moment did look to have the Nicholls runner in trouble. Ultimately the French import proved to be a class above but the run of BALLYBOUGH PAT should not go ignored and he can make an impact this season before going chasing next term.
COOTAMUNDRA (J Berry) – Faller in 2m1f Novices’ Chase (3.40 Sun Galway) – This 9yo was making eye-catching headway and looked to be running a big race when taking a slithering fall at the final obstacle. It’s unusual to see a 9yo making his debut over fences and although he maybe hasn’t proven to be the most straightforward of horses in the past there was plenty to like about this run. Most of his hurdling form has been over or around 3 miles so it will be interesting when they send him over staying trips over fences. It could be they get him handicapped over shorter trips and the ultimate aim is a 3 mile handicap chase later on in the season. His pedigree screams marathon trips (his Dosage figures are rammed with stamina points – a CD of -1.14!) which makes this run even more eye-catching and he should be followed closely; I feel there may be a plan at work with this one…
VALDEZ (A King) – 2nd in the 2m Novices’ Hurdle (4.15 Sun Wincanton) – The 5yo was making his hurdling debut and moved smoothly into contention as they swung into the homestraight. He looked for all money like he was going to collect but he bumped into a very determined rival in Kings Flagship and failed by only a neck to get past him. He will strip fitter for this run and is surely much better than this; compensation awaits sooner rather than later.
All of the above caught my eye for one reason or another but none of them make the plate as this weeks ‘NTF 1 to follow from the weekend’. That honour goes to a north trained chaser that was running at Aintree on Saturday…
INOOGOO (G Bewley) – Saturday 4.35 Aintree – 3rd in the 2m4f Novices’ Chase
This fine looking, solid framed chasing type is one of those that is simply built to jump a fence. Despite falling on his chasing debut at Perth it does look that, in time, jumping will prove to be his strong suit. As such the farcical situation of a half-mile run-in with all the fences in the home-straight omitted due to low-sun was never likely to play in his favour. Despite this he did extremely well to put it up to UNIONISTE and DISTIME and only gave way inside the final furlong. Jockey James Reveley also sensibly eased up a touch when it was clear he would have to play 3rd fiddle in the run-up to the line. I would expect the winner UNIONISTE to make into a very smart novice chaser this term so the proximity of INOOGOO should not go unnoticed.
If we go back to INOOGOO’S chasing debut at Perth it should be noted that he was running a massive race before tipping up 3 out in what I think will probably turn out to be an above average contest for the track. That puts INOOGOO in the bracket of running well in 2 hot novice chases from 2 chase starts.
A quick look at his Dosage figures tell me that he isn’t short on stamina and as such I could see him improving further for tackling 3m+ over fences…
INOOGOO Dosage Figures – 1-0-7-0-2 (10) | 0.82 | -0.20
He is also a horse that runs well fresh so I would not be concerned when he races after any sort of break…
Record after a break of 90 days or more – F2215 (F came at Perth on Chase debut when running a huge race)
I have seen more than enough from his 2 chase starts to suggest that he can be a real force on the north novice chasing circuit this season. Whether he can make an impact further afield is open to debate but he certainly has the size and scope to significantly improve past his hurdle mark of 120. I would be shocked if he can’t pick up a couple of small novice chases this term.
The Bewley yard are an operation I really rate and expect them to make significant strides in the coming seasons; this lad can play a major part in that.
That’s what I think of the weekends racing but what do YOU think?
Who were the runners that caught your attention and went in your own notebook as ones to follow from the weekend?
Who, in your mind, posted the most impressive performance of the weekend?
Drop me a comment below and share your runners to follow from the weekend with the NTF community.
p.s. it was great to see recent NTF 1 to follow from weekend runner GOLDEN CHIEFTAIN scoot home at Worcester last Wednesday. That was a career best on the figures and he is likely to be hammered by the handicapper after that performance. It will be interesting to see what mark he is put on and providing it isn’t overly strong a rise there could still be improvement to come from the Tizzard runner.
Ben – (NTF)