Horses To Follow » Jayo


Jayo ran out a really impressive winner of the two-and-a-half-mile beginners’ chase at Navan on Saturday. Willie Mullins’s gelding travelled and jumped really well throughout. He stood off the cross fence, went in tight and popped the last, and showed nice turn of foot to come clear of Bringbackthebiff, winning with a lot more in hand than the three-length winning margin. Paul Townend actually took a tug after the third last.

Jayo progressed nicely last season over hurdles, improving for stepping up from the minimum trip. He won well at Cork over two miles and three furlongs in March, and then put up the best performance of his career over the smaller obstacles when stepped up to two and a half miles for the first time and running on well to take third spot behind Brave Right in the big Ballymore Handicap Hurdle at the Punchestown Festival.

He was just having his third run over fences on Sunday, and already it looks like he will be an even better chaser than he was a hurdler. Well beaten by Arkle candidate Made In Taipan on his chasing bow, he only just gave best to the useful Top Of The Rock over two miles at Navan last month, with the pair pulling well clear.

The step back up to two and a half miles on Sunday obviously suited Jayo well. He may get further in time, but his French siblings appear to have been at their best over two and a half miles, so this may prove to be Jayo’s optimum also, especially as he will almost certainly be even more at home behind a stronger gallop on Sunday’s evidence. The Jewson Chase looks like the obvious race for him at Cheltenham.

The handicapper can’t be too harsh on him for Sunday’s performance. Runner-up, Bringbackthebiff, was having just his second run for Edward O’Grady since landing from New Zealand, and he had fallen early on on his first, so he is difficult to rate. Third-placed Good Fella is decent and was rated 125 over hurdles while fourth-placed Jaamid was rated 124 over hurdles. Jayo himself was rated 137 over hurdles, so you have to think that his chase mark can’t be any higher than that, and surely the English handicapper can’t go overboard either, based on the same rationale.

In the context of the Jewson, the Grape Tree Road gelding’s potential for progression is key, and he has buckets of it. He is only five years old, rising six, and has a nicely progressive profile over fences now. The four Jewson winners to date were rated 123, 133, 133 and 135 respectively. Indeed, five of the first six home in last season’s renewal were rated between 134 and 136, all of the first six home in 2007 were rated between 131 and 135, while the first three places in 2006 were filled by horses who were rated between 133 and 137. In its short history, the Jewson has been dominated by horses in a very specific ratings bracket, and Jayo is in it. No six-year-old has won the race yet (all four renewals have actually been won by seven-year-olds), but Lacdoudal, Bob Hall and Barbers Shop all finished second as six-year-olds, and Jayo could be a live contender come March. In the meantime, he is worth following wherever he goes next.

© The Irish Field, 20th December, 2008