Paul fer­gu­son

Paul Fer­gu­son likes the look of Tom Ge­orge’s hope at New­bury

Racing Ahead - - CONTENTS -

Res­i­dent tip­ster with his fan­cies for De­cem­ber’s big races

Run­ner-up at both the Chel­tenham Fes­ti­val and at Oc­to­ber’s Show­case Meet­ing, SINGLEFARMPAYMENT is fan­cied to fi­nally land his big prize at New­bury on De­cem­ber 2.

Tom Ge­orge’s seven-year-old made a pleas­ing start to his chas­ing ca­reer last term and pro­gressed steadily through­out the sea­son, win­ning with plenty in hand at Chel­tenham last De­cem­ber. Brought down when well sup­ported for a valu­able novices’ hand­i­cap at the same track on tri­als day, he was beaten a short-head by Un Temps Pour Tout at the fes­ti­val, form that has been ad­ver­tised this sea­son by the fifth Go Con­quer.

He moved like the best horse in the race on his re­cent reap­pear­ance and, as he seemed to need his first out­ing last term,it is hoped that he is spot on for this as­sign­ment in the Lad­brokes Tro­phy.

The mar­ket is headed by the Wil­lie Mullins-trained To­tal Re­call who bolted up on his de­but for the sta­ble in Lim­er­ick’s Munster Na­tional, form that was franked by the re­cent suc­cess of Al­pha des Obeaux, whilst Phil’s Magic (18 lengths third) wasn’t far away at Chel­tenham’s Novem­ber meet­ing.He races off 18lbs higher at New­bury, but he is com­pletely un­ex­posed as a stay­ing chaser and the eight-year-old war­rants plenty of re­spect.

The other one to­wards the head of the mar­ket is Harry Fry’s Amer­i­can who looks ab­so­lutely tai­lor-made for a race of this na­ture, or pos­si­bly the Welsh Na­tional over Christ­mas. Un­beaten in three starts over the larger ob­sta­cles, he gave Rock The Kas­bah 6lbs at Ut­tox­eter when last sighted in March and that ri­val made a win­ning reap­pear­ance off the same mark at Chep­stow dur­ing Oc­to­ber. He rel­ishes soft ground and hails from an in-form yard – at the time of writ­ing in any case – but I just have a slight reser­va­tion about his of­fi­cial rat­ing. De­spite that most re­cent piece of form read­ing well,I can’t help but feel a mark of 157 is high enough.

On the same card, Nicky Hen­der­son is ex­pected to un­leash Charli Parcs in the Gerry Feilden Hur­dle, an in­ter­me­di­ate hand­i­cap that the yard has taken with L’Ami Serge and Lyvius in re­cent sea­sons, and go­ing back even fur­ther with the high-class Bac­cha­nal.A blood­less win­ner on his Bri­tish de­but at Kemp­ton last Christ­mas, he looked in trou­ble when fall­ing two out in the Ado­nis Hur­dle be­fore fin­ish­ing sixth in the Tri­umph.

Given that far-from-ideal fes­ti­val prepa­ra­tion, it is prob­a­bly safe to as­sume he could be bet­ter than he showed at Chel­tenham and he be­gins the sea­son on an at­trac­tive look­ing hand­i­cap mark.

The same con­nec­tions are also likely to be rep­re­sented on the same day by Cham­pion Hur­dle win­ner Bu­veur d’Air in New­cas­tle’s Grade 1 Fight­ing Fifth Hur­dle.

It doesn’t look like it will be the strong­est of tests for Nicky Hen­der­son’s six-year-old – Ap­ple’s Jade (see be­low) is likely to re­main on home soil and Defi du Seuil heads to As­cot the week be­fore – and it will be a huge shock if he is beaten on his sea­sonal reap­pear­ance.

The following day (De­cem­ber 3) Fairy­house stages a trio of Grade 1s, in­clud­ing the Hat­ton’s Grace Hur­dle in which Ap­ple’s Jade is likely to bid to join the likes of Lime­stone Lad and So­le­rina as a mul­ti­ple win­ner of the valu­able prize. Last year’s hero­ine made a pleas­ing win­ning re­turn in the Lis­mullen Hur­dle re­cently – gave weight and a beat­ing to a race-fit ri­val – and be­ing only five, there is ev­ery chance she has yet to reach her peak. Gor­don El­liott’s like­able mare looks sure to be dif­fi­cult to beat over this sort of in­ter­me­di­ate trip.

The mighty Faugh­een also holds an en­try in the Hat­ton’s Grace, but that con­test comes just a fort­night af­ter he made a win­ning re­turn in the Mor­giana. As­sum­ing he comes out of that race well – and let’s hope he does – he is likely to be next sighted over Christ­mas.

In the same colours, I wouldn’t mind see­ing Ap­ple’s Jade’s sta­ble-mate Sam­cro tak­ing his chance in the Royal Bond Novice Hur­dle over the min­i­mum trip. A high-class bumper per­former last term, the chest­nut seems to be on ev­ery­one’s lips this au­tumn and he duly won his maiden hur­dle with the min­i­mum of fuss,

beat­ing Mind’s Eye (won re­cently) by an ef­fort­less 15 lengths. While he is a win­ning pointer and is bred to get much fur­ther, the son of Ger­many is not short of speed and is up to win­ning at the top level over 2m, in my opin­ion. He will no doubt have a clutch of pos­si­ble tar­gets in the com­ing weeks – the ‘Monks­field’ Novice Hur­dle and the Na­van Novice Hur­dle ob­vi­ous races over 2m4f – but this would be where I would send him, if he were mine.

Noel Meade’s un­beaten Red Jack is another for any short­list, de­spite the fact that he only looked work­man­like in the end when win­ning a Naas maiden hur­dle re­cently.The ground was bot­tom­less that day and I would be pre­pared to for­give any young­ster on such a sur­face; it prob­a­bly blunted this horse’s speed at the busi­ness end of the con­test.He is another who looked des­tined for much bet­ter things when win­ning both bumpers last term and he re­mains an ex­cit­ing prospect.

The third and final Grade 1 on the card is the Drin­more Novice Chase, in which Death Duty and Foot­pad are ex­pected to clash.The for­mer has won both starts over fences to date, jump­ing well when cop­ing with the drop back to 2m2f at Punchestown last time and this in­ter­me­di­ate trip on soft ground looks just about ideal.If he is to be a Grade 1 win­ning novice this sea­son – as he was over hur­dles last term – it might well be in the mid­dle of the win­ter when he gets his favoured ground.

Wil­lie Mullins’ Foot­pad was a stun­ning debu­tant win­ner at Na­van re­cently ,where he was elec­tric over his fences. Post race, the trainer sug­gested that he would be cam­paigned with the Arkle in mind, but the Drin­more was his likely next port of call and there is no trip con­cerns given that he won in France over 2m3½f and he fin­ished third over 3m at Punchestown back in April.

Visu­ally, he was very im­pres­sive on de­but and if he jumps sim­i­larly he could

just have too much pace for Death Duty, given that he was beaten just a length by Pe­tit Mou­choir in the Ir­ish Cham­pion Hur­dle.It should be a crack­ing match up,if both horses do in­deed make the race.

Foot­pad’s sta­ble-mate Rathvin­den also de­serves a men­tion, given that he would have a dis­tinct ad­van­tage in terms of ex­pe­ri­ence, hav­ing now run in seven chases and won four times since July. Im­pres­sive last time, his rider might at­tempt to put the jump­ing of the other pair un­der pres­sure by press­ing on from an early stage.

Fi­nally, with re­gards to the Drin­more, I can’t not give a men­tion to Monalee who also cre­ated a deep im­pres­sion on his chase de­but at Punchestown re­cently. That suc­cess came just 15 days be­fore this Grade 1 con­test so it seems highly un­likely that he will line up – not re­ally Henry de Brome had’s style – but he looks a classy novice and one that would de­serve much re­spect wher­ever he lines up. The 3m con­test at Leop­ard­stown over Christ­mas is likely to be next for him, how­ever.

The following week­end (Dec 9) Sandown stages the Tin­gle Creek and, with the re­cent news that Al­tior is to miss the con­test, it could of­fer Fox Nor­ton the ideal op­por­tu­nity to bag another Grade 1 prize. With Dou­van’s par­tic­i­pa­tion also up in the air, Colin Tiz­zard’s seven-year-old is very much the one to beat judged on his re­cent reap­pear­ance suc­cess in Chel­tenham’s Shloer Chase.He won that race a year ago but was then forced to miss the mid­dle part of the sea­son; on soft ground, he is the most likely to cap­i­talise whilst Al­tior is on the side­lines.

Paul Ni­cholls’ Hal­don Gold Cup win­ner Poli­to­logue is the other lead­ing UK-trained per­former that seems sure to be aimed at the Sandown show­piece. The grey trav­elled supremely well at Ex­eter and had the race in safe-keep­ing some way from home, only to idle af­ter the last. The prospect of him at­tack­ing the Railway Fences is some­thing to look for­ward to and, whilst that will stand him in good stead as he goes back up in grade, he will need to step for­ward once again if he is to trou­ble Fox Nor­ton, who looked as well as ever on his reap­pear­ance.

It’s back to Chel­tenham the following week­end for the De­cem­ber meet­ing, where Finian’s Os­car is ex­pected to re­turn, following his suc­cess at the track in the Steel Plate And Sec­tions Novices’ Chase.An in­dif­fer­ent round of jump­ing on de­but at Chep­stow was bet­tered at the Novem­ber meet­ing, where he showed a fine turn of foot to out­pace Move­with­thetimes af­ter the final fence. Though a strongly run race over the min­i­mum trip was men­tioned by trainer Colin Tiz­zard, it seems likely that he will make his third start over the larger ob­sta­cles in the 2m5f Ry­man Novices’ Chase (16th).

On the same card, look out for Vene­tia Wil­liams’ Garde­fort who caught the eye with the way he trav­elled on his reap­pear­ance at Ain­tree re­cently. The eight-year-old moved re­ally well over 2m4f and it could have been the com­bi­na­tion of the longer trip and it be­ing his sea­sonal reap­pear­ance. The Ray­mond Mould Hand­i­cap Chase over 2m½f im­me­di­ately sprung to mind as a likely tar­get for the Grand An­nual run­ner-up, who doesn’t appear to have an is­sue with han­dling test­ing ground. Keep him on­side wher­ever he turns up next.



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