Horses To Follow » Original


The French raider who won the Wayward Lad Chase on the same day, Original, is even more interesting. He is a massive horse who, you would have thought, would not be ideally suited to Kempton’s park track, and so it proved. He moved up menacingly at the end of the back straight but then lost ground negotiating the home turn as French Opera leaned in and ultimately took his place on the rail just behind long-time leader Oumeyade.

From that point, it appeared that his chance had gone and that the race would develop into a duel between the top two, but once they levelled up for home, Original picked up again. Very quickly it was apparent that he was the strongest of the three contenders, and he powered away over the last two fences to win by nine lengths.

A couple of things to note here before we get too carried away. The race lost a lot of its lustre when Deep Purple completely downed tools. Also, this was not a vintage renewal of the Wayward Lad Chase – there are better two-mile novice chasers around – and there is a chance that Oumeyade went off too fast in front for his own good. That said, Oumeyade is a decent animal. He had won his previous two starts, beating useful rivals and making all the running in both, and he is at his best when he goes right-handed. Runner-up French Opera is also a useful performer, a 138-rated hurdler who has now never been out of the first two over hurdles or fences when he has completed. Also, the time of the race was really impressive for a novice, 0.6secs faster than the time that Fiepes Shuffle clocked in the Desert Orchid Chase over the same course and distance an hour and a half later.

The natural inclination when we get a 66/1 winner of a Grade 2 race is to put it down as a fluke and move on, but it might be a mistake to do so in the case of Original. While it is difficult to evaluate his French form, he did earn a Racing Post Rating of 140 for his previous run at Auteuil, when he was beaten just three lengths by the mare Popova, who has since been just beaten in a Grade 3 contest. So his French form is not of Arkle-winning standard, but it does show that his performance on Saturday was not completely out of the blue.

It was a career-best, mind, which is significant. It is probable that the British style of racing over jumps, the better ground than he is used to in France (French going reports are notoriously misleading, but they do keep Auteuil well watered and Original’s last 10 runs have been on ground that was officially described as either very soft or heavy) and the fast pace that Oumeyade set, suited Original well.

Connections were talking about the Arkle afterwards, and that makes a lot of sense. It is not certain if the hurly burly of an Arkle or Cheltenham’s undulations will suit as well, but the fast pace that they invariably go in the race certainly will, and it should thin the field out so that he will have room to manoeuvre his not unsubstantial frame. French-breds have won half of the last 14 renewals of the Arkle, and as a seven-year-old, Original is the right age, with three of the last four renewals going to that age group. Odds of 33/1 about him for the novices’ championship event are too big.

© The Irish Field, 3rd January, 2009