Horses To Follow » Bertimont


Bertimont may not get the credit that he deserves for getting as close to The New One in the Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock on Saturday.

It is safe enough to say that The New One probably wasn’t at his best. He was out to his right at most of his hurdles, quite dramatically on occasion, which isn’t really like him, he made a mistake at the third last just as the pace was quickening, and he wasn’t as fluent as he can be at the second last nor the last. That said, he is one of the best two-mile hurdlers in training, he probably raced on the best of the ground in the home straight, and he can’t have been that far off peak fitness, given that this was his last run before the Champion Hurdle. And Bertimont gave him a real race.

Dan Skelton’s horse was fast and fluent at most of his hurdles, he took up the running from the early leader Got The Nac at the third last, and he picked up impressively. On the run to the final flight, it looked like he had The New One in trouble, and he only gave best half way up the run-in.

One significant aspect of this race: Bertimont moved towards the far side in the home straight, he raced up the inside rail, whereas Sam Twiston-Davies was at pains to keep The New One to the near side. That was an astute move, as it is probable that the best of the ground at Haydock on Saturday was on the near side. It is impossible to know by how much The New One was advantaged by racing towards the near side, or by how much Bertimont was disadvantaged by racing towards the far side, but it is probable that there were advantages and disadvantages at play.

Winner of a 10-furlong handicap at Leopardstown off a mark of 88 for James Lambe last spring, this was just Bertimont’s fourth run for Dan Skelton. He won a strange race at Chepstow on his British debut, when he was allowed a really easy lead, but he put up a nice performance on his next run to finish second to Purple Bay in the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton after Irving had fallen at the final flight. He was disappointing behind The New One in the International Hurdle at Cheltenham on his final run before Saturday, but perhaps something was ailing him there, and it is interesting that he wore a tongue-tie for the first time on Saturday. Perhaps he struggled with his breathing a little at Cheltenham.

The handicapper left him on his mark of 149 after Saturday’s run, which is fair. This is a mark off which he could win a big handicap. He proved on Saturday that he can handle soft ground, but he is probably better on better ground. He is only five, two miles is his trip, and he still has plenty of scope to progress further. He could be a County Hurdle horse.

17th January 2015