Horses To Follow » Blackstairmountain


Blackstairmountain produced a fine effort to finish second to Luska Lad in the Grade 2 two-mile novices’ hurdle at Fairyhouse on Sunday. Settled on the inside by Ruby Walsh just behind the favourite Luska Lad, who set a sensible pace given how heavy the ground was, he travelled and jumped well. Nothing travelled better than the Willie Mullins-trained gelding as they approached the hurdle before the home straight, as Luska Lad kicked on and had all five of the other runners in trouble. Blackstairmountain travelled easily over the second last and picked up impressively between the final two flights to go a length up. He jumped the last flight well and apparently had the race in the bag, but he began to tie up on the run-in, Luska Lad rallied and got back up inside the final 100 yards to win by three parts of a length.

This was a really good novices’ hurdle. Luska Lad, as top bumper horse from last season, has now won his last three, including the Grade 2 Red Mills Trial Hurdle at Gowran Park, and is rated 152. Mr Cracker, four lengths back in third, is a talented individual who continues to improve and who was well fancied and well backed here, while there were nine lengths back to Loosen My Load, winner of the Grade 2 Hurdle at the Open Meeting at Cheltenham last November. On top of that, the time was good, almost seven seconds faster than the time that the handicap hurdlers took to complete the same course and distance a half an hour earlier.

Blackstairmountain looks exciting again now after disappointing at Cheltenham. A dual bumper winner, he raced twice on the flat last summer, finishing second in a Leopardstown maiden before winning a 12-furlong maiden at the Galway Festival. However, it was the style of his win on his debut over hurdles at Punchestown at the end of January, when he jumped well and won doing handsprings, that saw him go to Cheltenham as one of the leading fancies for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

There was some encouragement to be gleaned from his run there. He did travel well into the home straight, and looked like he was going to be involved, before the big guns ran away from him. This was much more like it. He travelled really well in the conditions, and may well have won had his challenge been delayed until after the last, but you can easily forgive him for giving best to as talented and gutsy a rival as Luska Lad.

Blackstairmountain did win his maiden hurdle on heavy ground, and the flat maiden that he won at Galway was run on soft ground, but he was also very good in winning a bumper at Tipperary on good ground, and you fancy that he will be seen to even better effect on ground that is better than the very soft ground that prevailed at Fairyhouse over Easter this year. He could have another go at Luska Lad in the Grade 1 novices’ hurdle at Punchestown, where he would have every chance of exacting revenge. He is still just five, he has run just three times over hurdles, he has a really progressive profile now and he will be very interesting if he lines up at Punchestown. He is also a really exciting prospect for next year.

4th April 2010