Horses To Follow » Aso


Aso put up a really nice performance to win the Grade 2 Rossington Main Novices’ Hurdle over two miles at Haydock on Saturday.

A little keen through the early stages of the race, Venetia Williams’ horse travelled well up on the outside of leader Kiama Bay on the run around into the home straight. It appeared all the way up the home straight that he was travelling better than the leader, and he duly took Jim Best’s horse’s measure on the run between the final two flights before jumping the last well and staying on nicely up the run-in to post an impressive victory.

This was Aso’s sixth run over hurdles, and he has been steadily progressing for each one. Winner of a bumper in France in the summer of 2013, he was an impressive winner at Warwick in November on just his second start for Venetia Williams, and he ran well in defeat at Sandown in December before scrambling home at Taunton at odds-on on his last run before Saturday. You can easily allow him an unimpressive performance there however. He made all his own running, and, bizarrely, six of the 10 hurdles were omitted because of the low sun. And he proved on Saturday that that wasn’t his true running.

Interestingly, Venetia Williams won this race last year with Zamdy Man, who did not race again last season but who ran The New One to three lengths on his debut this season.

Aso would not be out of place in one of the good novice hurdles at Cheltenham. As well as Zamdy Man last year, who is now rated 156, this race was won in 2010 by subsequent Neptune Hurdle winner Peddlers Cross and in 2012 by subsequent Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner Cinders And Ashes. However, he would be of even greater interest in a big handicap hurdle now. Venetia Williams has entered Aso in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury next month. However, the handicapper left him on his mark of 138 for this win but, because he won it, he would have to shoulder a 5lb penalty if he did take his chance in the Betfair Hurdle, so he would be 5lb poorly-in. It wouldn’t rule him out, but he would obviously be better-handicapped if he waited for another big handicap, perhaps the County Hurdle.

Either way, he is an exciting prospect. He is only five and he has raced just six times over hurdles, so he still has lots of scope for progression. As against that, however, he has plenty of experience in big fields. His first four runs in Britain were in fields of 17, 18, 10 and 13 respectively. He continues to progress, he goes well on soft ground and he should get the fast pace that should help him settle in a big handicap hurdle. He will be of interest wherever he goes next.

17th January 2015