Horses To Follow » Bensalem


He is a little obvious, but Bensalem was a bit of an eye-catcher in finishing second to Cross Kennon in the Rendlesham Hurdle at Haydock on Saturday, and it wasn’t at all surprising when Alan King said afterwards that the old William Hill Trophy rather than the World Hurdle would be his Cheltenham target. He travelled like a winner for most of Saturday’s race before he just seemed to run out of absolute peak fitness on the ground against a dogged rival, and Wayne Hutchinson wasn’t at all hard on him when his winning chance had gone. You can be certain that King will tighten the screws between now and 15th March.

He could be a seriously well-handicapped horse over fences. He looked well-handicapped going into last year’s Cheltenham Festival on a mark of 143, and he was travelling like a winner in the William Hill last year when he took a pearler of a fall at the second last. He hasn’t run over fences since, so his rating remains 143. To put that into context, he is rated 153 over fences. Also, he got to within two lengths of Diamond Harry in a novices’ chase at Newbury last February, there was never much between the pair of them as novices (Bensalem looked a big danger to the Hennessy winner when they had previously at Haydock when he fell at the third last), and that horse is now rated 168. Even the horse who ultimately finished second behind Diamond Harry in that race, who would have finished well behind Bensalem had he remained upright, Knockara Beau, is rated 148. Bensalem is right, he has raced just five times over fences, and he has the potential to be significantly better than his handicap mark. As long as his jumping holds together, he has a huge chance of winning the William Hill this year, and, even though he is favourite, he is still value at 6/1 with a run.

19th February 2011

© The Irish Field, 26th February 2011