Horses To Follow » Calgary Bay

Calgary Bay

If you fancied Calgary Bay for the Arkle before last Saturday, I wouldn’t go losing faith even though he got beaten by Panjo Bere in the Lightning Novices’ Chase. On the contrary, he probably enhanced his Arkle claims. He is such an impressive individual, he has so much scope and he jumps so well that it is very easy to imagine him going right to the very top of the tree as a staying chaser in time.

The son of Taipan travelled really well on Saturday, jumped superbly, put pressure on confirmed front-runner Free World the whole way and had him cooked by the time they turned for home. However, Jamie Moore had been stalking the pair throughout on Panjo Bere, and he delivered the six-year-old with a perfectly-timed challenge to land the races.

There were a number of factors that militated against Calgary Bay on Saturday. For starters, it is probable that Dominic Elsworth saw Free World as his prime – if not sole – danger, legitimately, and he rode his race to beat that rival, which he duly did. The pair of them may have gone too fast up front, and may have set the race up for a sucker punch to both – a possibility that is given greater credence by the way in which Free World, who had reportedly been working well with Master Minded, folded tamely at the top of the home straight, despite the fact that he was in receipt of 6lb from Calgary Bay – which Panjo Bere duly delivered.

Secondly, Calgary Bay looked ill at ease going right-handed. He jumped a little to his left throughout, and didn’t seem to be at home cornering right-handed. It was this tendency to go to his left that allowed Jamie Moore steal between him and Free World on the run to the second last, and it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that that manoeuvre made the difference between victory and defeat.

Calgary Bay’s record screams left-handed. He has raced right-handed now five times, and he has never won. He has raced left-handed six times, and he has won twice and finished second three times. The only time he was out of the first two going left-handed was in last season’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. It was also interesting to hear trainer Henrietta Knight say afterwards that he needed to go left and would never race right-handed again, given that Knight also trained Racing Demon (who incidentally raced in the same colours as Calgary Bay), the horse with the most pronounced directional need of recent times, but didn’t publicly recognise until about 18 months after it was apparent to the world that Racing Demon needed to go right.

The other thing that was against Calgary Bay on Saturday was the distance, and in the context of the Arkle, that is a worry. Last season over hurdles, he just seemed to lack the killer finishing kick over two miles that would have made him a top class novice hurdler, and that could be the case as well over fences. The best performance of his career to date was when he was stepped up to two miles and five furlongs at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day and ran out a really impressive winner from Kicks For Free and Tartak (although Tartak didn’t do a great deal for that piece of form at Haydock on Saturday).

Calgary Bay’s name should be the first one on your 2010 Gold Cup shortlist. He will be seven years old then, like Best Mate and Kicking King and War Of Attrition and Kauto Star were, he has bags of stamina on his dam’s side, he has won twice in three starts at Cheltenham, and you know that he will be trained specifically for the race if he is good enough. Crucially, Kauto Star and Denman will both be 10 next year, and we will probably need a new champion.

More immediately, my gut feeling is that he is set to run a big race in the Arkle. You need to stay further than two miles to win the Arkle now, given how fast they go and the fact that the ground on the first day of the Cheltenham Festival really can’t be any better than good to soft these days. It is not a coincidence that the last three Arkle winners, Voy Por Ustedes, My Way De Solzen and Tidal Bay, were all two-and-a-half-milers at least. Outside of the distance, Calgary Bay has a lot in his favour as an Arkle contender. His jumping will be a huge asset, he is proven at Cheltenham, AP McCoy will probably be back on board (the champ has never been out of the first three on him in four attempts) and he is a definite intended runner now. Even the 7/1 that you can get about him now represents a little bit of value.

© The Irish Field, 24th January, 2009