Horses To Follow » Trafford Lad

Trafford Lad

Trafford Lad was most impressive in landing the Drinmore Chase at Fairyhouse on Sunday. Even in the absence of Breedsbreeze and Aran Concerto, this was the best novice chase staged on either side of the Irish Sea this season, and Dusty Sheehy’s gelding was unequivocally the winner on merit.

The performance was all quality. He jumped really well, effortlessly and accurately, and he travelled well to the home turn. He actually came under pressure before the leader Forpadydeplasterer did, but he found plenty, which was hardly surprising. Even last year when he was jumping hurdles, he always looked like a staying steeplechaser in waiting. Even so, he was a top class hurdler, winning the Grade 1 Barry & Sandra Kelly Memorial Hurdle over two and a half miles at Navan in December, and failing by just a head to give 7lb to Venalmar in the Slaney Hurdle at Naas in January, before going to Cheltenham and finishing third in a really hot Ballymore Properties Hurdle.

The son of Tragic Role is a hugely exciting prospect. Still only six, he has now won a Grade 1 contest over fences and over hurdles. He is hugely progressive, with each of his three chase runs representing a step up on his previous run, and he has a huge amount in his favour in the context of the Sun Alliance Chase at Cheltenham. He proved last March that he is well able to handle the contours of Prestbury Park and the rigours of the Festival, and he will probably improve for stepping up in distance. He certainly races that way and, out of a half-sister to Stayers’ Hurdle winner Shuil Ar Aghaidh, he is bred that way as well.

Sheehy said on Sunday that he wouldn’t want to miss out on the Powers Gold Cup next April, which makes sense given that it is a valuable pot and is run over the same course and distance as the Drinmore. But that race will be run a month and a day after the Sun Alliance Chase this season, so it is highly unlikely that, even if the Fairyhouse race were a priority, Sheehy could resist the lure of Cheltenham. He did admit later on that he would love to have a winner at Cheltenham. The Drinmore hasn’t been an accurate pointer to the Sun Alliance Chase of late, but it perhaps hasn’t been that hot a race in very recent years, and if you dig a little bit deeper into you come across Alexander Banquet, the 1999 winner who finished second in the Sun Alliance Chase, and Dorans Pride, the 1996 winner who finished third in the Gold Cup as a novice that season.

Best odds of 12/1 about Trafford Lad for the Sun Alliance at present are big. If he were trained by WP Mullins or EJ O’Grady, you can’t help feeling that he would be about half those odds.

© The Irish Field, 6th December, 2008