Horses To Follow » Kilcooley


Kilcooley put up a really good performance to beat Silsol in the National Spirit Hurdle at Fontwell on Sunday.

Often a front runner, Kilcooley was dropped in behind confirmed front-runner Kayf Moss through the early stages of the race. He was travelling so well, however, and he jumped so well down the back straight first time that Noel Fehily allowed him up on the inside of the leader at the end of the back straight. In front then from the top of the home straight first time, Charlie Longsdon’s horse travelled enthusiastically in front. He was immediately stalked by Silsol and, together with Kayf Moss, they drew away from the other two horses. At the end of the back straight, however, it was clear that the race was going to develop into a match between the front two.

Both horses travelled well around the bottom bend but before they straightened up for home, Sam Twiston-Davies had to niggle Silsol along to keep him within striking distance. Kilcooley, by contrast, travelled well in front. He jumped the second last flight two lengths in front, eased his way down to the last, and picked up nicely on the run-in to get home by almost three lengths.

There was a lot to like about this performance from Kilcooley. His jumping was a little less than fluent on occasion, but he always travelled well, and he could have been called as the most likely winner from the end of the back straight. He didn’t show a potent turn of foot to come clear of Silsol on the run-in, but Silsol is a horse who finds a lot for pressure, so that was understandable. Also, the heavy ground was not conducive to potent turns of foot.

There is substance to the performance too. Silsol is a talented individual, he won a good handicap hurdle at Newbury on his debut this season when he wasn’t fancied off a mark of 144, and he won another good handicap on heavy ground at Ffos Las on his last run before Sunday off a mark of 151. He went into Sunday’s race on a mark of 158, he was rated 8lb higher than Kilcooley. Also, the front pair pulled miles clear of their rivals, and the time was good, the fastest comparative time on the day by a fair way and 0.12secs/furlong faster than Racing Post par.

This is often a good race, it has been won in the past by such luminaries of Comedy Of Errors, Beach Road and Baracouda, and in more recent times by My Way De Solzen and Lough Derg. Kilcooley just continues to progress. A decent novice last season, he split subsequent Tolworth Hurdle winner L’Ami Serge and subsequent Betfair Hurdle winner Violet Dancer in the Gerry Feilden Hurdle at Newbury in November – that was a rock solid race – and he just about led all the way before coming clear to win a good handicap hurdle at Haydock in December by 20 lengths off a mark of 137. You have to put a line through a disappointing run in the Lanzarote Hurdle at Kempton in the interim, but you easily can in the light of Sunday’s run. That run was probably the best performance of his life so far.

The Coral Cup would be the race for him at Cheltenham, but Charlie Longsdon said after Sunday’s race that there was no point in giving lumps of weight away in a handicap now, and that makes sense. He said that a conditions race at Aintree or Punchestown is next for him. He is effective over two miles and on good ground, but two and a half miles on soft ground probably represent optimum conditions for him. He could be under-rated in graded races now.

22nd February 2015