Despite a couple of winners on Friday, I have been disappointed with the Top 40 Prospects over the last few days. Chantry House ran out a wide margin winner at Ascot on Friday and he looks a smart chasing prospect. His task was simplified when market rival Pic D'Orhy departed at the third last but he still pulled clear after the penultimate fence to win easily. Nicky Henderson's gelding is expected to return to the Berkshire track next month for the Grade 2 Noel Novices' Chase (18th December) - sidelined stablemate Angels Breath won the same two events last season.
Ferny Hollow got the better of Bob Olinger in the two miles maiden hurdle at Gowran Park during the same afternoon. A length separated the pair as they pulled 45 lengths clear of the third. Both look high-class novice hurdlers who ought to take high rank this season. The winner looks an obvious contender for the Skybet Supreme Novices' Hurdle, while Henry De Bromhead's runner-up may come into his over slightly further.
Metier, who is featured in the Changing Codes section of OJA, made it two out of two over timber with another comfortable win in the Introductory Hurdle at Ascot. An expensive purchase at the end of 2019, Harry Fry's gelding had won in good style on his hurdling debut at Newton Abbot and had no trouble following up here by five and a half lengths. His trainer is now toying with the idea of returning to Ascot for the Grade 2 Kennel Gate Novices' Hurdle (18th December) or waiting for the Grade 1 Tolworth Novices' Hurdle at Sandown in early January. Proven on slow ground, it will take a smart one to beat him regardless of where he heads next.
The November Update had a mixed weekend with Imperial Alcazar only finishing ninth in the valuable staying handicap hurdle at Haydock. Rated 140, Fergal O'Brien's dual winner looked attractively treated for his handicap debut but, having held every chance turning for home, he weakened soon after the third last. I must admit I was disappointed with the ride he received and felt Paddy Brennan made too much use of him in testing conditions. He remains a promising horse who I suspect will go chasing now. I still think he will stay three miles in time but needs to be ridden with more restraint. Ironically, I have never seen him travel so well but his finishing effort was tame.
The same owners enjoyed Graded success courtesy of the fast improving Imperial Aura at Ascot and Kim Bailey's seven year old is now ante-post favourite for the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham next March. I was hoping Imperial Racing would also be on the mark at Huntingdon on Saturday with another handicap debutant Art of Diplomacy. Rated 102, the Mick Easterby trained gelding was stepping up markedly in trip and for much of the staying handicap hurdle, the four year old looked the most likely winner. However, he produced a scruffy jump at the second last and hit the floor at the final obstacle. There is no doubt he is handicapped to win races - the market drift beforehand suggests he may have been in need of the run and a tired fall at the last backs up that theory. He is one to keep an eye on.
Thankfully, the Update did produce a few winners on Sunday, including L'Air Du Vent (2/1) at Exeter. Third on his chasing debut at Chepstow, Colin Tizzard's ex-pointer turned the tables on The Wolf to win the three miles novices' chase at the West Country track. A big strapping gelding by Coastal Path, he jumped well and, having led at the third last, he stayed on strongly to win by a length and three quarters. Graded company may prove beyond him but he looks capable of winning a good staying handicap chase one day.
Monmiral was a five and a half lengths winner of the opening juvenile hurdle at Exeter and looked an above average three year old in the process. A winner at Auteuil during the spring, he was bought soon afterwards by Paul Nicholls (along with the runner-up Hell Red). Held in high regard at Ditcheat, the Saint Des Saints gelding looks to possess plenty of scope and is one for the long-term. It will be interesting to see how far he can progress this season. He is featured in the French Revolution section of OJA and so, too, is the fifth Ronde De Nuit. Despite the fact she was beaten over fifteen lengths, I thought Philip Hobbs' new recruit shaped with a lot of promise. A filly by Doctor Dino, she only raced once on the Flat in France and therefore arrived lacking experience. Having made good headway before the home turn, Richard Johnson's mount tired after the second last. She is a filly to watch out for, especially when racing against her own sex and possibly on an easier track.
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