Horses To Follow » Uxizandre
Uxizandre put up a big performance to finish second to Un De Sceaux in the re-scheduled Clarence House Chase at Cheltenham last Saturday on his first run since March 2015. Alan King’s horse was keen through the early stages of the race, and he got outpaced when they quickened towards the end of the back straight, but he made nice progress under Barry Geraghty from the third last fence, and he moved into second place ahead of Top Gamble after the second last fence. It never really looked like he was going to get to Un De Sceaux, and he probably tired on the run-in, but he still kept on well enough to retain second place, almost three lengths ahead of Top Gamble in third.
Connections could hardly have hoped for a more encouraging return to action from Uxizandre. JP McManus’ horse was dynamite the last time we saw him in winning the Ryanair Chase at the 2015 Cheltenham Festival, providing AP McCoy with his final Cheltenham Festival winner. Off the track since then, it is understandable that he would have been keen early on, and that he would tire late on, but it was still a massive performance to get as close as he did to Un De Sceaux. Willie Mullins’ horse is top class, he is a six-time Grade 1 winner, he was probably competing under his optimum conditions – two miles and soft ground – and he was race-fit, having won the Tingle Creek Chase on his seasonal debut. Also, the winning time was fast, as you would expect, 0.29secs/furlong faster than Racing Post par.
Uxizandre is a big player now in this year’s Cheltenham Festival, and you have to think that the Ryanair Chase is the race for him more than the Champion Chase. He does have two-mile pace, he won the Shloer Chase over two miles in November 2014, but the best performance of his life was in that Ryanair Chase two years ago over two miles and five furlongs. Also, he was a staying hurdler as a novice, and he won the Manifesto Chase over two and a half miles at Aintree in 2014.
Un De Sceaux is favourite for the Ryanair this year, and you can understand why, he is top class and he does have form in France over two and a half miles. However, there are reasons for believing that Uxizandre would be able to get closer to him in a Ryanair Chase. Firstly, the probable better ground would be a positive for Uxizandre, as would the step up to two miles and five furlongs. And he should improve for this, his first run in 22 months. As well as that, the Fragrant Mix gelding did not wear headgear on Saturday, which was unusual, given that he had worn headgear in all but one of his runs since March 2014. He ran out of his skin in his first-time cheekpieces then, when he finished second in the Grade 1 JLT Chase at the 2014 Cheltenham Festival, and he put up that career-best in the Ryanair Chase two years ago in a first-time visor. You can be sure that Alan King is planning to fit headgear again at this year’s Cheltenham Festival, and he will be of interest in whichever race he contests.
28th January 2017