It’s that time of the season where the National Hunt die-hards find themselves caught in the post-Cheltenham/pre-Aintree limbo land (Cheltree Land maybe?!).
Personally I try and have a small break at this juncture (I stress the word ‘try’!) and let myself have a few days out in the fields before working myself back to peak analysis strength with some steady work up the gallops. As usual I failed miserably with this plan and spend a large number of hours last week picking through the 59 Grand National entries to produce an ante-post guide for NTF subscribers! If I’m honest I wouldn’t have it any other way. For starters when I told Mrs NTF I was thinking of putting my feet up for a few days she had me decorating the bloody living room!? Best way to prevent this from happening? “sorry dear, racing on, must watch” “I thought you were having a break?” “yeah but I forgot they were racing at…eh…Steepledowns today” “Steepledowns? Not heard of that track?” ” yeah its a new one, down in London somewhere. Anyway couple of horses I want to keep an eye on, I’ll start on the bedroom next week”. Simple 🙂
Anyway as always I have been keeping my usual close eye on the racing over the weekend and although it maybe wasn’t of the highest calibre there was one runner that caught my eye.
Take a squint at my solitary ‘under the radar’ eye-catcher from the weekend –
THE BEAR TRAP (R Curtis) – Saturday – 2.10 Stratford – 3rd in the 2m3f Class 4 Novices’ Hurdle
This large framed, robust looking individual was given an…um…interesting ride in this contest. He was kept wide for the entire contest and had to cover significantly more ground than the rest of the field, he looked slightly out-paced when the front 2 made their break for home but still finished with quite a rattle and to my eye looked to have plenty still left in the tank. He jumped his hurdles in an extremely fluent manner and to me he already makes the shape of a chaser at his obstacles. It could well be that chasing is the main target for this 5yo son of Westerner and hurdles are simply being used as a way to gain track experience whilst he fills into his hefty chassis. The other, more immediate, option could be he is being prepared for a handicap hurdle somewhere. Certainly his last 2 starts beg the question ‘Is he being primed for something bigger later on in the season?’. He was tenderly handled in the finish on his previous start at Ludlow (so much so that I believe the stewards had a gander at his run) and as already mentioned this ride at Stratford goes under the heading of ‘interesting’. I would be convinced that when he steps into handicaps he will be on a decent mark and if that is the plan for him before going chasing then I would certainly be interested in him. Likewise if it is the case that he is purely hurdling before being put away for a chase career then I would be as equally interested when he sets hoof over fences.
Being by Westerner I would expect him to be able to handle most underfoot conditions except maybe the extremes (Heavy & Good to Firm) and it may well be that sharp tracks such as Kempton, Musselburgh and Newton Abbot (for example) are where we will see him at his best.
Whilst I’m on the *Westerner angle take a look at this developing trend for his National Hunt runners –
**All Westerner runners on their UK National Hunt debut
10/46 | 22% S/R | +£124.30 BFLSP (+£44.35 ISP) – Win & Place 17/46 | 37% S/R
The offspring of 2005 Arc runner-up are obviously ready to take their National Hunt debut in their strides and so far it has paid to take note when you see one of his kids take to the track for their first start.
Ideal conditions (for The Bear Trap): Early days but potentially best on sharp tracks and NOT on extremes of going (ran poorly on Heavy at Chepstow)
NTF Aintree Grand National Festival Guide
I have had a number of emails asking if I will be opening up places on the NTF subscription service for the Aintree Festival guide in a similar manner to my recent Cheltenham Festival guide. I will indeed be doing this and there will be spaces made available for those of you that only want to join for Aintree week. I will be releasing details of this closer to the time so please sign up to the free updates list (form at top right of site) to keep informed of how to sign up to NTF for Aintree Grand National week.
*Westerner mini-angle sourced from the excellent ProForm database
**please note change of angle from original 7 day stat