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Chief Yeoman

Chief Yeoman impressed with the resolution that he showed in digging deep to land the two-and-three-quarter-mile handicap hurdle at Sandown on Saturday.

When Venetia Williams’s gelding got beaten in a two-and-a-half-mile hurdle at Ascot two weeks previously, it appeared that he would benefit from a step back down in trip. He challenged long-time leader Lough Derg at the top of the home straight that day, and appeared to get out-stayed over the final two flights. He had been tried over three miles twice over fences, and came up short both times. He had the pace to win over seven furlongs as a three-year-old – admittedly six years ago – and he had never won at a distance in excess of an extended two miles in 10 attempts. However, Williams obviously had different ideas, and persisted in stepping him up again in distance, a move that was handsomely rewarded on Saturday.

Held up out the back by the excellent Aidan Coleman in the early stages, the son of Machiavellian made his move from the end of the back straight, took it up between the final two flights, and stayed on gamely up the hill all the way to the line to hold the late challenges of Ballydub and Night Cru. In so doing, he saw this trip out well.

Looking back to the Ascot race with the benefit of Saturday’s win in view, it could have been that he took on the dour battler that is Lough Derg too early, with two flights to jump and three furlongs to run, and he may be even more effective if held onto for even longer than he was on Saturday. His performance was even more impressive given that, as the trainer reported after the race, he suffered a slight setback during the week that led up to Saturday’s contest.

The nine-year-old is a real live contender for the Pertemps Final at the Cheltenham Festival now. He surely can’t go up too much from the rating of 135 off which he won on Saturday, given that he has raced 18 times over hurdles now and looks thoroughly exposed. This was his first win in a handicap of any ilk. However, he looks like a hugely improved character now this season over hurdles since he spent the majority of the last two seasons jumping fences, and it may be that there is further improvement forthcoming for the step up anther two furlongs in trip. It is a bit of a worry that he hasn’t got close in four attempts at Cheltenham, but he was badly hampered in the Jewson Chase in 2007, and he was no shorter than 28/1 in any of his other three attempts. According to Paul Jones’s Cheltenham Festival Betting Guide, 24 of the last 46 winners of the handicap hurdles at the Cheltenham Festival were won by last-time-out winners, which is impressive given that they make up usually just about 20% of the runners. Furthermore, the Pertemps is a race that unsurprisingly tends to go to the more experienced, battle-hardened contenders rather that the young up-and-coming progressive hurdlers. Four of the last five winners were aged eight or nine, and two of the last three won it off a rating of 140 or higher. As such, Chief Yeoman’s profile fits the bill very neatly.

© The Irish Field, 7th February, 2009