Horses To Follow » New Little Bric

New Little Bric

New Little Bric was a bit of a revelation in the Totesport Gold Cup at Newbury on Saturday. He was handy throughout, travelled well, and showed a nice injection of pace when Nick Schofield gave him a kick in the belly around the home turn to take four or five lengths out of the apparently well handicapped and really well-backed The Package. Timmy Murphy on The Package seemed to be content enough to allow New Little Bric go on. His partner had run fairly freely through the early throes – as is his wont – and perhaps he was just allowing him fill his lungs for a final thrust over the last two fences, but it soon became apparent that the leader was not for catching, and New Little Bric went on to record an impressive victory.

There was always a performance like this in New Little Bric. Paul Nicholls’s gelding has been a huge underachiever in the eyes of connections and punters alike for some time now. Before Saturday, he hadn’t managed to get his head in front since he landed the Scilly Isles Chase at Sandown in February 2007 – that was two years and eight runs before. He was favourite for the Jewson Chase in 2007, he was favourite for the Amlin Chase at Ascot the following November and he was favourite for the Boylesports Gold Cup the following December. On each occasion he came up well short. They re-fitted the blinkers that he had worn once before for Saturday’s race, but the trainer wasn’t confident, or even hopeful. He had apparently told the owners that there probably wasn’t much point in going to the races on the day. That gives a measure of the unpredicatbility of the horse. However, now that he has managed to get his head in front, it could give him the confidence that he needs to go and realise at least some of his undoubted latent ability.

The aggressive ride that Schofield give him – which he probably felt he was able to give him over two and a half miles much more than over three – may have been the key to him, and this, combined with his low weight and the good ground, enabled him to put up the most impressive performance of his career to date. The runner-up is a potentially really well handicapped individual (he was 10lb lower over fences than he is over hurdles, and it was always as a chaser that he was going to make his name) who was backed as if he had been primed for the race from a long way out by a yard that likes to do well in this race, and the front pair really had the race between them from as far out as the fourth last.

Of course there is no guarantee that New Little Bric will be able to repeat this performance, and the handicapper will undoubdtedly whack him up a good bit for it, but he should be still well handicapped, given that he was rated 13lb higher than Saturday’s mark when he was a novice. They are talking about running him in the Topham Chase at Aintree next, and that makes sense. He jumps well, so should be able to handle the big fences, the flat track will be in his favour, the two-mile-five-and-a-half-furlong trip should be just about ideal, and he can be ridden as aggressively as they like. It is a race that suits horses that are ridden up with the pace. Paul Nicholls broke a long losing streak in the race last year (he was zero for 20 before that) when Gwanako prevailed, and it is significant that he has committed New Little Bric to the race from so far out.

28th February, 2009