Horses To Follow » Tartak


His main rivals, Osako D’Airy and Lightning Stike, may have under-performed, hindered by some indifferent jumping, but Tartak could hardly have been more impressive in landing the two-and-a-half-mile graduation chase at Kempton on Saturday.

Settled nicely at the back of the field in the very early stages, Tartak’s jumping took him up effortlessly through the field as the race developed, to take up the box seat on the rail behind leader Oceanos Des Obeaux running down the side of the track. Paddy Brennan angled him out around the leader on the home turn, he picked up marginally in front at the third last, the first in the home straight, and quickened impressively between the last two fences to put a distance of ground between himself and his rivals, and post the fastest comparative time of the day by some way, almost five seconds faster than the beginners’ chase run over the same course and distance earlier, and that was without being extended.

This was impressive. Tartak may have improved by being held up in behind horses instead of making the running, as he had done when he got beaten on his penultimate run by Calgary Bay at Cheltenham and by Gone To Lunch at Newbury in November. The Tom George-trained gelding was beaten fair and square by Will Be Done at Haydock on his last run, but that horse is a high class novice over two and a half miles, and George’s horses were going through a quiet spell at the time.

Saturday’s win will have been a good confidence-booster for the son of Akhdari, and he can go on again from this. He jumps slightly to his left, so he might be even better suited by a left-handed track. As such, Cheltenham has to be on his radar.

It is interesting that connections were talking about having a tilt at the Arkle afterwards, and that may not be as far-fetched as might appear at first. He is well held by Calgary Bay on their running in the Dipper Chase at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day, but there are reasons for believing that there is a chance that he could get a lot closer to Henrietta Knight’s gelding than the 12 lengths by which he was beaten that day. For starters, Tartak made the running that day, and was a little deliberate over several of his obstacles possibly as a result. He seemed to be a lot better suited to being held up just behind the front rank on Saturday, and he was encouraged to have a cut at his fences, which he duly did.

Secondly, that race was run over two and a half miles, which looks like Calgary Bay’s ideal distance at present. It is not certain that the drop back to two miles will suit Tartak, but he only ever competed over two and a quarter miles in France, and his racing style suggests that he has the pace for two miles. He may even improve for dropping back down in distance. Also, the drop back down in trip will almost certainly make it more difficult for Calgary Bay.

Thirdly, Tom George’s horses were going through a torrid time at the turn of the year. They are flying now, and there is every chance that they will continue in their current form for the next four weeks. Finally, he was giving 4lb to Calgary Bay that day at Cheltenham. All in all, it doesn’t make sense that you can back Tartak at more than five times Calgary Bay’s price.

The French-bred Tartak has a lot of the attributes that you look for in an Arkle horse. As a six-year-old, he is the right age for the race, French-breds have won seven of the last 14 renewals of the Arkle from minimal representation, he seems to be best suited to being held up just off the pace, which is the ideal running style for an Arkle winner, good to soft ground seems to suit him well, and it looks like a fast-run race over a stiff two miles should be just about right, and that is exactly what the Arkle is. There is no doubt that he has the class to win an Arkle – the Racing Post Rating that he posted on Saturday of 154 is only 5lb off the best RPR posted by any Arkle contender, and it is almost certain that there was more left in him. He is most progressive now, and odds of 25/1 about him for the Arkle are far too big.

7th February, 2009