Horses To Follow » Osana


Osana wasn’t at all fancied for the Contenders Hurdle (the old Agfa Hurdle) at Sandown on Saturday, yet it looked like he had Celestial Halo in trouble before he left his hind legs behind him at the second last and surrendered the initiative. Even after that, he kept on really well all the way to the line to go down by just three and a half lengths to Celestial Halo, arresting the deficit from the final flight to the line. This was a fine performance from Osana on his seasonal debut, coming from the David Pipe yard, which is only just beginning to show signs of emerging from its stop-start season and hitting form.

It doesn’t make much sense now that Celestial Halo is a shorter price in some lists than Osana for the Champion Hurdle. The Nicholls horse had had the benefit of a run this season, from which he was expected to progress, and Osana’s weakness in the market on Saturday suggests that he is expected to improve for this. The generally accepted wisdom is that last year’s renewal of the Champion Hurdle, in which Osana finished second to Katchit, was a particularly weak one, a notion to which I am admittedly a subscriber. Sizing Europe went wrong when travelling like a winner, Sublimity had had an interrupted preparation and the race was won by a five-year-old for the first time in 23 years, a five-year-old who doesn’t appear to be as good as the last winner of that age, See You Then. However, there is a chance that this year’s renewal will not be any stronger.

Of course, Binocular could be a superstar, but his presence at the top of the market gives a potentially false sense of ‘classiness’ to the race. There is less depth there than there was this time last year. Of the six horses at the top of the market, three of them are five-year-olds (just because Katchit won it last year doesn’t mean that it is suddenly easy for five-year-olds) and two of them, Katchit and Sublimity, have to bounce back after disappointing on their respective latest appearances. The other horse in the top six is Osana, and he has to be a serious contender now that we know that he is alive and well. On his last three attempts over the course and distance, he won a Bula Hurdle, he finished second in a Greatwood Hurdle under top weight and he finished second in a Champion Hurdle. He has to be on your Champion Hurdle shortlist, and the 10/1 at which you can back him looks big.

© The Irish Field, 7th February, 2009