Horses To Follow » Marufo


Marufo doesn’t have the typical profile of a horse contesting veterans’ races as, despite being a 10-year-old now, he doesn’t have many miles on the clock, he has been seen sparingly in recent seasons (just five times since July 2009). He has improved on both of his last two runs now at Newbury, with the latest of them, on Saturday, in a three-and-a-quarter-mile veterans’ handicap chase, being a career-best.

Strong in the market beforehand, he was always travelling well, just in behind the leaders early on, before moving up to join Hello Bud out in front passing the post first time round. He jumped into a clear lead at the first fence on the final circuit, indeed he put in a fluent and accurate round of jumping, save for the last fence in the back straight at which he was out to his right, and the fourth last, which he hit pretty hard. The favourite and stout stayer, Niche Market, came to join him after that mistake at the first fence in the home straight and traded at a short price in-running, as he looked to have Marufo’s measure, but the plucky Marufo battled back well, he had a narrow lead again over the second last, Richard Johnson saw a good stride at the final fence, and he was tenacious on the run-in to fend off Niche Market, a former Irish Grand National winner, and fifth in the Grand National last year.

The two of them drew miles clear up the home straight, there were 24 lengths back to Ouzbeck in third at the line, with Hello Bud and the Hennessy Gold Cup third Fair Along, a stable companion of the winner’s, further behind.

They clocked a really good time too, two seconds faster than standard on a day on which there were no other times even close to standard.

Marufo was getting 22lb from Niche Market, but the runner-up is a classy horse and has actually been dropped a couple of pounds this season. He was running off a mark here that was 7lb lower than when he finished fifth in the Grand National last season. Even at the age of 10, Marufo can go on again from this. He has been raised 7lb to a mark of 127, but that is not overly punitive, Niche Market (now retired) was raised 6lb himself for finishing second, and Marufo has the potential to go on again from this.

This was a really likeable performance from Philip Hobbs’s horse, the stable is hitting form now and, because this run came in a veterans’ race, it may be slightly under-valued.

3rd March 2012