Horses To Follow » Possol


The three-mile Timeform Betfair Handicap Chase at Haydock on Saturday looked like a strong race beforehand, and it didn’t disappoint, throwing up a winner and a runner-up who should be worth following, as well as a couple more who finished down the field (Nor’Nor’East and Glasker Mill among them).

The winner Possol is very interesting. He was a winner in France for Guy Macaire before he joined Henry Daly at the beginning of last season. He raced six times in novice chases in the UK and was never out of the first three, actually putting up his most impressive performances in defeat, most notably when just going down by a half a length to subsequent Galway Plate winner Oslot at Southwell in April, and when finishing third behind Finger Onthe Pulse and Barbers Shop in the Jewson Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

I am fast becoming a big Jewson Chase fan. It makes sense that a two-and-a-half-mile novices’ handicap chase run at the Cheltenham Festival should be overflowing with potential, and the 2008 race seems to have been the best of the four renewals to date. Winner Finger Onthe Pulse won a Grade 3 contest at Limerick on his debut this season, runner-up Barbers Shop would have been an impressive winner of the Paddy Power Gold Cup (as the 2007 Jewson winner L’Antartique was) had he not encountered an unusually strong opponent in Imperial Commander, while seventh-placed Big Buck’s landed the Mildmay Novices’ Chase at Aintree on his only subsequent run and has been favourite for this afternoon’s Hennessy since betting opened.

Henry Daly was not sure what Possol’s next target would be immediately after the race. He was kicking around the idea of going back to Cheltenham for the Boylesports Gold Cup on December 13th, which makes sense on the face of it, given that he ran so well over the course and distance in last season’s Jewson. However, he would have to step back in trip to contest that race, and that may not be ideal

Possol seemed to stay the three-mile trip well on Saturday. Okay, so Mom Mome was coming at him again inside the final 100 yards, and it did appear that he was looking for the line, but the pair of them pulled eight lengths clear of Darkness, who was 12 lengths clear of Osako D’Airy, so you couldn’t say that Possol didn’t see it out. Furthermore, Mark Bradburne was just nudging him into the bridle from early on the final circuit, and he really didn’t appear to be travelling like a winner until after they have levelled up for home. You certainly wouldn’t have said, based on this performance, that he needed to drop back down in trip.

We need to change our view of Haydock. In the days of Suny Bay and See More Business and Unguided Missile and Twin Oaks, it was a big galloping course that suited thorough stayers. These days, however, since they moved the chase track to the inside and introduced portable fences, it is a tight track, more like Southwell or Kempton than Newbury or Newcastle. As such, the Racing Post Trophy at Kempton in February could be the race for Possol. He ran really well at the Sunbury track on his only visit there, keeping on well to finish second to Mister Quasimodo with Gwanako (runner-up in the Racing Post Plate at the Cheltenham Festival on his subsequent run) back in third. The handicapper has hiked him up 9lb for Saturday’s win, but his new mark of 143 almost certainly still leaves some room for manoeuvre given his progressive profile and the fact that he is still only five. It should pay to follow him wherever he goes next.

© The Irish Field, 29th November, 2008