Mark Howard Publications Ltd

Akhu Najla could be top class

26-April-2022 18:31
in General
by Admin

With a couple of defeats, it wasn't a day to write home about for the Top 40 Prospects in Ahead On The Flat on Tuesday but the Maidens In Waiting section may have unearthed another top notcher in Akhu Najla. A half-brother to the 2000 Guineas winner Galileo Gold, the son of Kingman cost 2,700,000gns as a yearling and shaped nicely on his sole outing at Leicester in October. Described as 'a work in progress' by his trainer Roger Varian when we spoke at Carlburg Stables in February, he was heavily supported before the one mile maiden at Yarmouth and his backers never had a moments worry. Drawn in stall ten, David Egan brought his mount to the stands rail and was prominent throughout. Shaken up with a quarter of a mile to run, he soon quickened away to win eased down by six and a half lengths. The Listed Heron Stakes at Sandown (19th May) is reportedly his next target before having a crack at the St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot. On offer at 25/1 for the latter event with William Hill, I think that is generous and wouldn't put anyone off. Bred to be very good and an expensive purchase, he looks potentially top-class. Roger Varian appears to have a strong team of three year olds.

The opening day of the Punchestown Festival belonged to Gordon Elliott with four winners. Mighty Potter provided the highlight when returning to his best and winning his second Grade 1 victory in the two miles novice hurdle. Pulled in the Skybet Supreme Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham, he made a mistake at the top of the hill on that occasion and was in trouble soon afterwards. The Martaline gelding put that run behind him here with a dominant display having moved strongly throughout. A four lengths winner from 100/1 shot Gatsby Grey, there is no doubt neither Dysart Dynamo (defibrillating heart) and Sir Gerhard ran up to scratch but that shouldn't detract from the winner's effort who will make a terrific novice chaser next season. 

Willie Mullins may have had a frustrating start to the opening day but it didn't end too badly with three winners, including a couple of Grade 1 victories. Energumene confirmed that he is the best two mile chaser about at the moment by following up his Queen Mother Champion Chase win by beating stablemate Chacun Pour Soi by eight and a half lengths in William Hill Champion Chase. Paul Townend's partner picked up strongly after the last and pulled clear to win impressively. It was another very smart performance by the ex-Tom Lacey trained eight year old.

Readers of One Jump Ahead will be fully aware that I nominated Capodanno for the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham. Unfortunately, those plans never materialised with the ex-French gelding contesting the Brown Advisory Novices' Chase at the Festival. Fourth behind L'Homme Presse, the six year old didn't enjoy the testing ground and his jumping wasn't good enough. Returning to a sounder surface at Punchestown, he was a six and a half lengths winner of the Grade 1 Champion Novice Chase under Mark Walsh. Once again, his jumping wasn't razor sharp but he stayed on strongly and proved too good for his opponents. That was his second consecutive win at the Punchestown Festival. He stays well and enjoys decent ground. While there is definitely room for improvement with his jumping, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that he could become a Gold Cup contender next year - he doesn't have the brilliance of A Plus Tard or Galopin Des Champs but is a thorough stayer. The disappointment of the race was undoubtedly Bob Olinger who pulled up. Henry De Bromhead's former Cheltenham Festival winner hasn't convinced everyone with his fencing and once more he looked anything but a natural and was in trouble a long way from home. Don't be surprised to see the seven year old back over hurdles next winter.


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