It was a mixed weekend for the Top 40 Prospects in One Jump Ahead with a couple of disappointments. However, the Gordon Elliott trained Zanahiyr (7/4) made a winning start to his hurdling career in the opening juvenile event at Ballinrobe on Saturday. Purchased privately out of Mick Halford's yard during the summer, the lightly raced Nathaniel gelding got the better of Willie Mullins' Dark Voyager after the last to win going away by two and a half lengths. The first two looked above average as they pulled 42 lengths clear of the third. It is still only October and yet Elliott has already unleashed the unbeaten juvenile hurdlers Duffle Coat, Longclaw, Quilixios and Zanahiyr.
There was a fascinating three runner novices' chase at Ffos Las on Sunday and it was won in convincing fashion by If The Cap Fits to continue the good form of his trainer Harry Fry. Rated 162 over hurdles and a Grade 1 winner, he warmed to his task jumping wise and having led after the third last, the gelded son of Milan pulled clear to win by seven and a half lengths. It will be interesting to see if he is considered for something like the Grade 2 Rising Stars Novices' Chase at Wincanton (7th November) next month, although he looks as though he will be even better over three miles which brings a race such as the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices' Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day into the equation.
The runner-up Fiddlerontheroof found disappointingly little off the bridle and faded inside the final couple of furlongs. It is possible he is at his best over two miles (won the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle over the minimum trip last season) but his trainer Colin Tizzard had a disappointing day at the Welsh track with his runners finishing 4256. Indeed, the West Country handler has yet to strike form this Autumn, a comment which also applies to near neighbour Philip Hobbs (1 winner from 38 runners in the last 14 days).
The Talking Trainers section in OJA had a profitable day at the Welsh track with Estelle Ma Belle (5/2), If The Cap Fits (85/40), Sceau Royal (10/1) and Rabski (11/1) all winning. Jonjo O'Neill's interview has been a fine source of winners with Prince Escalus (33/1), Rabski (11/1) and Soaring Glory (4/5) scoring on their reappearances.
It was a very good day all round for owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede with If The Cap Fits and Sceau Royal winning at Ffos Las. The fast improving James Du Berlais also scored impressively in a Grade 3 hurdle at Auteuil on Sunday. Only four, he is featured in the French Revolution section of One Jump Ahead and could be bound for the UK at some stage this term. He is an exciting prospect for this season and beyond. Don't be surprised if he even got an entry at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
As regards champions day at Ascot on Saturday, I was delighted that Addeybb and Trueshan won for William Haggas and Alan King respectively. The former has enjoyed a remarkable season with three Group 1 wins, including the Champions Stakes on Saturday. I texted William on Saturday evening and he feels the former Lincoln winner is a better horse racing right-handed. Trueshan has been a fantastic horse for the head of Barbury Castle winning seven of his eleven races producing a career best at the weekend when blitzing his rivals by upwards of seven and a half lengths. I still can't work out how he only finished eighth in the Skybet Ebor in August though. It wasn't such a good day for champion trainer John Gosden with his seven runners at the Berkshire track finishing 12, 4, 9, 3, 8, 8, 10.
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