Eyecatchers: Fou for your loving
Our team pick out their eyecatchers from the weekend while Ian Ogg provides the latest update for the Jumps Notebook.
Ma Du Fou: Could spark back to life when his stable is in better form.
Betting in bumpers is a bit of a non-starter for some punters – too many unknown quantities and markets dominated by the latest big-money purchase representing top connections. I quite like their whole vibe though – getting in on the ground floor when a potential National Hunt star launches its career rather appeals. Your guess is as good as mine in terms of how far up the ladder Marten goes but he could be worth a second glance in the shorter term following a nice introduction at Doncaster on Friday.
The temperature was starting to drop rapidly after a beautiful winter's day on Town Moor but those who hung around saw not only a dominant effort from the unbeaten odds-on market leader Ravenhill Road but also a really eyecatching run from Ben Pauling's debutant back in fifth place. The Martaline gelding saw some support in the betting before the off behind the jolly and his supporters seemed to have some cause for optimism turning for home as he put a little bit of daylight between himself and his rivals. But his early over-exuberance took a toll with three furlongs to run and and he was unable to sustain his effort strongly enough to make a telling impact up front, though far from disgraced in the way he kept on to the line.
He is with a good yard and owner Lord Vestey is no stranger to having a nice jumper pass through his hands if you delve far enough back into the form book – Marten's prominence in the betting as well suggests he could be useful and should be of some interest in the not-too-distant future. (David John)
Poetic stuff from my colleague about his day at Doncaster, but I'll stick with a winner on the same card whose form may well be underestimated next time out. It was a very ordinary affair that Lough Derg Leader took by eight lengths, but I was very, very impressed with the way he rocketed past his rivals once Richie McLernon got after him and I'd be reasonably confident that he could defy the decent hike in the weights that awakes.
It was a performance achieved in spite of circumstances, rather than because of them as the dawdling pace didn't suit those horses held up and undid Harry Hunt, who lost interest down the back straight before staying on again when the race was over.
Lough Derg Leader was barely any better positioned turning for home, but once top gear was engaged, it was apparent little more than a furlong later that he was going to win. I like that kind of dominance and another three-mile handicap hurdle awaits in the next few weeks if connections can find some decent ground – there's a nice race at Cheltenham on New Year's Day that comes to mind. (Will Hayler)
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The run of Captain Forez in the opening maiden hurdle at Newbury on Friday won't have passed many by but it is still worth highlighting as he looks a potentially smart prospect. He was in front until just before the last and at the top of the straight looked as though he had the well-regarded and talented Jenkins in trouble. He got tired on his British debut and weakened into third but there should be a good deal more to come from this scopey individual.
Indeed his size was notable against the other runners so it's no surprise that Dan Skelton already has chasing on his mind for a horse he has described as 'very exciting' and a 'long-term prospect'. Consequently, it may not pay to expect too much of him this season but his progress will be fascinating to monitor. (Ian Ogg)
When it comes to looking for eyecatchers, I've always preferred to look for horse who I have believe have underperformed, with an eye to getting some value out of them in the future. Ma Du Fou has now produced very ordinary efforts on both of his appearances over fences, but done so at a time when his stable is in and out, and he has shaped with a degree of promise on both occasions.
(Not quite) two miles in a small field at Wetherby first time out was clearly an insufficient test of his stamina, and even when stepped up in trip at Bangor on Saturday, he appeared to be doing his best work at the finish.
The best of his hurdling form, for example when beating North Hill Harvey in the Sidney Banks at Huntingdon, is going to make him look very nicely treated (indeed, the handicapper has dropped him 5lb to a chasing mark of 132) when it all clicks over fences and I fancy that will happen when the stable are in better nick and perhaps also when he is ridden more aggressively from the front – just look at how he has got on when frontrunning in the past, compared to when ridden from off the pace. (Will Hayler)
You know how it is when a horse that you fancied falls – you convince yourself he/she would have won with their head in their chest and so it was with Petit Mouchoir (4/1) in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle.
In truth, he departed too far from home to have any confidence in a prediction of where he might have finished but the five-year-old was certainly travelling well at the time and looked by far the likeliest winner.
Now we are faced with a problem though as hurdling mistakes prevented him from finishing closer on his debut for Henry de Bromhead at Down Royal and this heavy fall is hardly going to help his confidence. Simply, he cannot be backed with confidence so we need doubts about his jumping to be built into his price if looking to back him next time.
There's no doubt that he has the ability to win graded races over hurdles or that he looks progressive (for all that Saturday's race rather fell apart at the seams with Sceau Royal failing to run his race) but that is not much help if he can't negotiate the obstacles in front of him.
Philip Hobbs' runner did pull 17 lengths clear of the third in proving that he is at home on more testing conditions than he encountered on his Rules debut and he probably ran to a similar level of form. He's obviously capable of winning a novice and there may yet be more to come.
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