Horses To Follow » Alaivan


Alaivan ran really well to finish second to Regal Encore in the Pertemps Qualifier at Exeter on Sunday.

Fairly weak in the market beforehand on his first run since Aintree last April, the Jonjo O’Neill-trained gelding raced prominently under Maurice Linehan through the early stages of the race, just behind leader Aubusson, racing a little more keenly than ideal.

Third as they ran around the home turn, he moved up nicely between the two leaders on the run to the third last, and he probably just about hit the front, still travelling really well, between on the run to the second last flight. He was quickly joined by his owner’s other horse in the race, Regal Encore at the second last flight and, coming under pressure on the run to the last, he could not withstand the challenge of Anthony Honeyball’s horse. Even so, having been joined at the last by both Big Easy and The Tourad Man for second place, he stayed on really well on the run-in to secure second place, three lengths behind the winner.

This was a fine run by Alaivan, and a sure sign that he has retained lots of ability. He is a classy individual. A listed race winner on the flat for John Oxx, he won a Grade 2 hurdle at Fairyhouse as a juvenile for Thomas Barr and Edward O’Grady, and he finished fifth in the big Tote Handicap Hurdle at the Fairyhouse Grand National meeting in 2011 off a mark of 145 and under top weight of 11st 10lb. He has not won yet in seven runs now for Jonjo O’Neill, but he wasn’t beaten far in the Betfair Hurdle last season, and he ran well for a long way in a Grade 3 handicap hurdle run over two and a half miles at Aintree’s Grand National meeting last year.

That was the last time we saw him before Sunday, so it is understandable that he was a little keener than ideal in the early stages of the race. However, even allowing for the fact that he was keen, he saw out the three-mile trip well, and that opens up new options for him now. It should not be surprising that he possesses plenty of stamina, however, given that he is by Kalanisi out of an Ela-Mana-Mou mare who won over a mile and a half, a half-sister to Alamshar. These Aga Khan-bred horses usually stay well.

The obvious target for Alaivan now is the Pertemps Final at Cheltenham. The handicapper will probably raise him a couple of pounds for this, and that should be sufficient to get him into the Pertemps towards the bottom of the weights. He should improve on Sunday’s run, he should settle better with a run under his belt and behind the faster pace that they will surely go in the Pertemps, and it is significant that he goes well at the Cheltenham Festival. He was third in the Triumph Hurdle in 2010, and he was beaten a total of just two and a half lengths in the County Hurdle in 2011.

8th February 2015