Horses To Follow » Courageous


Courageous produced a good performance to get up for third in a competitive looking five-furlong handicap at Haydock on Saturday, on his first run for his new trainer Dandy Nicholls. The son of Refuse To Bend couldn’t go with them early on, the early pace was really fast, aided by a strong tailwind, and he must have been five or six lengths off the pace as Confessional blazed the trail up front. The Dandy Nicholls horse was still last of all and well back at the two-furlong pole, but he really picked up and stayed on well from here, he finished best of all, and he only just failed to get up for second.

Courageous hasn’t managed to win since his first ever run back in 2008, but he has some decent performances to his credit, and his two runs immediately prior to this race indicated that his time is not far off now. He looked all over the winner a furlong out, having led all the way in a six-furlong handicap before fading late on at York two starts back and he made another bold bid from the front in a five-furlong race at Goodwood on his last run before Saturday, before just getting tired again inside the final furlong, on a track where it is hard for horses to make all the running.

He was bought after that run at Goodwood for £28,000 and the move to Dandy Nicholls looks like it may have brought about more improvement in him on this evidence, which is hardly surprising given Nicholls’s proven ability with sprinters. He looked as if he had no chance at the half-way stage, yet he still finished third behind the consistent gelding Confessional and close to Golden Destiny, who ran a cracker in a good handicap at Ascot on his previous run. The form looks solid and the time, although aided by the tailwind, was still very good, well over a second faster than standard.

Often a front-runner in the past, Courageous was effective coming from off the pace here and connections could opt for the same tactics again next time, which could be in the Ayr Gold Cup. This visor that he wore on his last two runs for Bryan Smart was left off here, so there could be more improvement forthcoming if that were to be re-applied. The handicapper raised him just 1lb for this, which was reasonable, and he is relatively lightly-raced for a sprinter. Current odds of 33/1 about him for the Ayr Gold Cup are big. He would have a real chance of winning the race if he happened to make the cut. He has run well on soft ground before so easy conditions shouldn’t present a problem, and his trainer has won five of the last 10 renewals of the race. Even if he doesn’t make the cut, he will be of interest if he takes his chance in the Silver Cup or the Bronze Cup.

4th September 2010