Saturday got off to a bad start with Cruiseaweigh pulling up in the opening novices' hurdle at Sandown. Tom George's impressive Aintree bumper winner was a warm order to win on his jumping bow and, having taken charge early on, he was still in front when hanging to his right turning for home. Pulled up soon afterwards by Adrian Heskin, he looked ill at ease on the bend before turning down the backstraight, too. Whether it was a physical problem which caused him to hang is unknown because he had run well at Wincanton (right handed) on his debut last spring. It is impossible to say where he would have finished but I would have been disappointed if he couldn't have beaten the penalised Dashing Oscar. Unfortunately, we will never know. However, I still maintain the Oscar gelding is very good and remains one to follow.
Altior made it two from two over fences with a six lengths win in the Grade 1 Scilly Isles Novices' Chase at the Esher track. Nicky Henderson's Cheltenham Festival winner made a couple of minor errors early on but he showed his customary turn of foot after the last to readily see off Charbel. The Wayward Lad Novices' Chase at Kempton over Christmas is likely to be next and I don't suppose many will be queuing up to take him up. He will take some stopping next March.
I was working at Aintree yesterday and was very impressed with Evening Hush's victory in the Listed Juvenile Fillies' Hurdle. Rated in the high 70's on the Flat in Ireland when handled by Ken Condon, she has won both her starts over timber for Evan Williams and followed up her Exeter win with an even more emphatic victory yesterday. Making all, the Excellent Art filly used her experience and never looked like being headed. Suited by some ease in the ground, that contest has been won by subsequent Grade 1 winner L'Unique and Jer's Girl in the last four years and it will be interesting to see how far she can go.
Charlemar was Harry Whittington's horse to follow in One Jump Ahead and the ex-French gelding has won both his races over hurdles since joining his current yard. Successful at Chepstow on his UK debut, he followed up under a penalty when beating the expensive purchase Minotaur by four and a half lengths. He reportedly shows little at home and clearly saves it for the track. Bought as a replacement for ill-fated Grade 1 winner Arzal, he looks an exciting prospect.
Sunday proved a very good day for the Top 40 Prospects with 3 winners from 4 runners. Mount Mews made it three out of three in his short career when beating Sam Spinner by four lengths at Kelso in the opening novices' hurdle. Malcolm Jefferson's charge jumped neatly throughout and only had to be shaken up to beat his chief opponent. I suspect he will be even better over two and a half miles in time, although I am sure he won't be overfaced this winter.
Aux Ptits Soins produced a much better round of fencing in the following race when capturning the Paris Pike Novices' Chase at the Borders track. Paul Nicholls' Festival winner had looked rusty at Exeter on his chasing bow but had clearly brushed up on his jumping and, even though he tired late on, the grey was value for more than the winning margin of a length. He still has some way to go before he emerges as a major contender for the RSA Chase on this evidence, but it was a step in the right direction. The runner-up Westren Warrior definitely needs to improve in the jumping department but he looks a winner waiting to happen over fences for Dr Newland.
The other winner in the Top 40 Prospects was Getabird in the bumper at Fairyhouse. The former Irish pointer was strongly recommended by expert Declan Phelan and the four year old didn't disappoint on his Rules debut with a most impressive twelve lengths success. Very strong in the market beforehand, Patrick Mullins had his mount positioned in the first four or five throughout. Once asked for his effort, he readily pulled clear and not surprisingly is at the forefront of the ante-post market for the Cheltenham Festival bumper. He looks another exciting prospect for Rich and Susannah Ricci and is a tremendous addition to the Top 40.
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