Horses To Follow » Mister Top Notch

Mister Top Notch

Mister Top Notch ran a nice race in the Leopardstown Chase at Leopardstown on Sunday, kicking off out the back, making good progress down the back straight against an ever-increasing pace, and jumping well. It looked like he blew up on the run around the home turn, but he seemed to find his second wind, and stayed on again up the hill to finish fifth, just three parts of a length behind Finger Onthe Pulse in third.

This was a more than satisfactory run from Mister Top Notch, given that he had been off the track for three months before this run. There is no question that the son of Mister Lord is a high class individual. He won the Grade 1 Dr PJ Moriarty Chase as a novice, he won the Leopardstown Chase last year when it was run over three miles under top weight of 11st 10lb, and he finished fourth in last year’s Hennessy, just six lengths behind the winner The Listener.

Trainer Davy Fitzgerald intimated before Sunday’s race that he had the Aintree Grand National in mind for Mister Top Notch this year, and that is really interesting. He ticks an awful lot of the boxes that you look for in a Grand National winner. He is 10 years old (like two of the last three National winners and three of the last six), he is trained in Ireland (like six of the last 10 winners), he was bred in Ireland (like nine of the last 10 winners), he is a good safe jumper, he handles all types of ground, he has loads of stamina, and it now looks like he will be trained specifically for the race. It is a little bit of a worry that all of his best performances seem to have been at Leopardstown. However, Aintree is quite like Leopardstown in that it is left-handed and relatively flat, and Mister Top Notch proved when he ran so well to finish second to Dear Villez off top weight in the Munster National at Cork in October that he wasn’t merely a one-track pony.

His current rating of 158 would ordinarily be much higher than ideal, and would see him set to carry top weight, or close to it, in a normal year, but there is a real chance that this will not be a normal year. If Denman takes his chance – and current indications are that he will, all being well – Mister Top Notch would be allotted a weight in the low 10sts, and he would be one of only a few horses who would be able to compete of their correct handicap marks. There is a little bit of 55 available about Davy Fitzgerald’s gelding on Betfair and Betdaq, but even the 40/1 at which you can back him with Ladbrokes is more than fair. If he and Denman both make it to the starting gate, he couldn’t be much more than 1/4 those odds.

© The Irish Field, 17th January, 2009