One Jump Ahead continues to churm out the winners and highlight promising youngsters. Espoir D'Allen, who features in the French Revolution section on page 111, made an impressive hurdling debut at Punchestown yesterday. An APQS bumper winner in France, the Voix Du Nord gelding was all the rage in the market beforehand in the juvenile hurdle and he didn't let his supporters down with a four and a quarter lengths success under Barry Geraghty. Gavin Cromwell has already done well with smart mare Jer's Girl for J.P.McManus and he appears to have another talented performer on his hands.
Samcro was a fifteen lengths winner on his hurdling bow at the same track this afternoon. Unbeaten in a point-to-point and three bumpers, Gordon Elliott's charge produced a terrific round of jumping before breezing home under Jack Kennedy in the two miles maiden hurdle. It may not have been the strongest contest but the manner of his victory oozed class. There is no doubt the Germany gelding is quick enough for the minimum trip but I would expect the Neptune Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham to be his ultimate target in the spring. Granted luck, he is a top-class horse in the making and it is only a matter of time before he wins at the highest level. He is a class act.
Irish expert Declan Phelan pointed us in the right direction re Samcro last year and he has been at it again with the same connections' Felix Desjy sauntering to a ten lengths win in the concluding bumper - the last of Elliott's six winners at Punchestown (including the charity race courtesy of ex-Flat racer Pallasator). A fifteen lengths winner of his only point last spring, he was steered to victory on his Rules debut by Lisa O'Neill and looks another top notch prospect for Gigginstown House Stud and co.
Midnight Shadow (11/1) looks a good prospect, too, having taken the two miles novices' hurdle at Uttoxeter for Sue Smith. Featured in the Stable Gossip section of OJA (page 127), the Midnight Legend gelding had shown a decent level of form in bumpers last term and beat some highly regarded opponents here. Ridden by Danny Cook, the four year old showed a sharp turn of foot on the run-in to wear down Counter Shy and Montys Award. The warm favourite Cause Toujours demonstrated his customary high cruising speed but, having raced keenly early on, weakened after the last. The winner looks capable of defying a penalty and promises to be even better over an extra half a mile.
Despite only finishing fourth, I thought Minella Rocco made a more than satisfactory reappearance in the Grade 3 chase at Punchestown. Beaten around ten lengths, last season's Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up had every chance turning for home until the lack of a recent run took its toll. Jonjo O'Neill will no doubt have races such as the Lexus and Irish Hennessy at Leopardstown on his mind but the seven year old will be trained to peak next March in an attempt to go one better in steeplechasing's blue riband.
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