Another mud-splattered weekend of racing now in the form book and what did we learn from the racing at jumping HQ?
Well Paul Nicholls clearly has yet another exciting young chaser on his hands in the shape of UNIONISTE. Despite being a relatively inexperienced 4yo he fairly ripped the field a new one in the Paul Stewart Gold Cup. It will be interesting to see where he goes from here and indeed what the handicapper decides to do with him.
ZARKANDAR battled and dug deep as Ruby forced him through the gears in the International Hurdle. He had race fitness on his side so perhaps it wasn’t a massive surprise he came out on top of the battle of the main protagonists, however, it was GRANDOUET who probably impressed me the most. He travelled and jumped like the class animal he is and if Geraghty had gone after him a bit earlier he may well have overhauled ZARKANDER. I guess the jockey was mindful of not leaving the 5yo’s season behind on his debut so if we take that into consideration then it was a highly satisfactory return to action.
OSCAR WHISKY easily controlled another weak contest and we learned precious little. I wouldn’t be surprised if they missed the Festival altogether with him as they won’t go down the World Hurdle route again and Henderson doesn’t seem very keen on another shot at the Champion Hurdle.
I stay at Cheltenham for this weeks NTF ‘1 to follow from the weekend’ runner with the honours going to an eye-catching hurdling debutant in the closing race on Friday…
NTF 1 to follow from the weekend
ROYAL BOY (Nicky Henderson) – Friday 3.40 Cheltenham – 2nd in the 2m1f Novices’ Hurdle
This was an extremely pleasing debut from the 5yo against race-fit rivals after a 628 day lay-off (since his Point-2-Point run). He travelled well just off the leaders in this 17f contest and although taking a few flights to get his jumping together he did improve as the contest progressed. He is a deep chested sort who looks like he will stay a trip in time and his pedigree suggests that he will improve for further.
The winner on Friday, MELODIC RENDEZVOUS, is probably a well above average type and it was no disgrace for ROYAL BOY to go down by only 3/4 of a length. MELODIC RENDEZVOUS actually finished 2nd behind the classy CHAMPAGNE FEVER in the Grade 1 bumper at Punchestown last term and only narrowly lost out on his hurdling debut at Exeter to a well-backed Paul Nicholls horse.
ROYAL BOY is from the same sire (Lavirco) as the likes of MIKAEL D ‘HAGUENET, ROI DU MEE, SO YOUNG and TARLA so it is not hard to imagine him making an impact at trips around the 2m4f/5f distance.
A quick look at his Dosage figures would also back up that assessment –
ROYAL BOY Dosage figures – 2-1-5-4-0 (12) | 0.85 | 0.08
If we take a look at the ground stats associated with the Lavirco offspring we can see that ground with plenty of cut in it will be preferable for ROYAL BOY –
*Figures from 2006 – Present and sourced from the excellent Proform Database
Good to Firm – 4/19 | 21% S/R (small-ish sample size)
Good – 5/76 | 7% S/R
Good to Soft – 7/73 | 10% S/R
Soft – 21/94 | 22% S/R
Heavy – 19/62 | 31% S/R
There should be plenty of opportunities for him over the winter on ground with juice in it and I wouldn’t be surprised if there are also plenty opportunities in the spring as well!
From watching his run on Saturday I would expect improvement went sent over further but at the same time he could well have plenty to say over shorter in his novice season.
I would be shocked if he doesn’t pick up a couple of victories this term and he could well develop into a contender for one of the end of season festivals, providing the ground isn’t too fast.
Who were the runners that caught your attention and went in your own notebook as ones to follow from the weekend?
Did you see any future champions amongst the weekends runners?
What were your thoughts on Zarkandar, Grandouet and Rock On Ruby?
Drop me a comment below and share your runners to follow from the weekend with the NTF readers.
Ben – (NTF)