Horses To Follow » Balgarry


Balgarry put up a seriously impressive performance in winning the two-mile handicap hurdle at Newbury on Saturday. Not only was this his British debut, it was also his first run on a sound surface, just his third ever run, and his first for 557 days, as he had been off since winning as a three-year-old at Clairefontaine in August 2010.

Taken straight to the front by Conor O’Farrell, connections obviously had no worries about him fitness-wise, and he went a good, solid clip. He had several of his rivals, including the well-supported favourite and second favourite, Sire Collonges and Orzare, in trouble before they got to the end of the back straight, even though he was under a tight hold. He skipped clear as they swung for home, he came over to the near side in the home straight and had a 10-length lead over the second last before he idled in front after jumping the last hurdle clear, so he was probably much better than the bare form of the race.

He was obviously well handicapped on a mark of 129, and he will just get a 5lb penalty for this for Cheltenham, so he could still be a long way ahead of the handicapper. The Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ race could be the race for him at Cheltenham with Conor O’Farrell back up, he won over two miles and two furlongs on very soft ground at Clairefontaine as a three-year-old, and he raced here as though two and a half miles shouldn’t be a problem. Interestingly, his only other entry at Cheltenham is in the Coral Cup, he is not entered in the County Hurdle, so David Pipe obviously has no stamina concerns for him for two and a half miles. He will be of big interest if he runs at Cheltenham, in either race – the ‘bounce’ factor notwithstanding – but particularly in the Martin Pipe race, a race that his son David is desperate to win. (He has plotted up some horses for the race who have proven themselves subsequently to be high class. Grands Crus was ballotted out of the race two years ago, and Dynaste was raised to a mark of 141 through collateral performances in the lead up to the race last year, which made him ineligible for the race, a 0-140 handicap.) Even if he doesn’t take his chance at Cheltenham, he still could be well treated having been raised to a mark of 140. An 11lb rise for this extremely authoritative performance is not harsh.

3rd March 2012