Horses To Follow » Smoking Aces

Smoking Aces

There was a lot to like about the performance of the Tom Taaffe-trained Smoking Aces in landing the maiden hurdle at Naas on Sunday. At the top of the home straight it looked like the Michael Bowe mare Fair Ina may have slipped her field, but Smoking Aces moved into second at the third last and had caught her by the time they reached the last. A sloppy jump at that obstacle gave the John Mulhern-trained Puyol a chance, and it looked like he was going to go on and land the spoils half way up the run-in, but Smoking Aces dug deep and got up to win by a head.

This was a hot maiden hurdle at the top end. The runner-up is a winner of a bumper and a winner on the flat, and he was well backed, while the third is a decent mare who was afforded an easy lead, and the front three finished clear, although Jaffonnien would probably have been in the mix as well had he not come down at the second last. Furthermore, the time of the race was really good, just outside Racing Post par and over 11 seconds faster than the Grade 2 novice hurdle that was run over the same course and distance a half an hour later.

Smoking Aces is a half-brother to Sun Alliance Chase runner-up Roll Along, by Old Vic. His dam is a Montelimar mare who is from the family of Sun Alliance Chase winner Nahthen Lad and Gold Cup winner Charter Party. Smoking Aces, for his own part, was a running-on second in a two-and-a-quarter-mile maiden hurdle at Leopardstown over Christmas on his penultimate outing, and there is no question that he is a staying steeplechaser in the making. He is only five years old and he is one for his trainer and his owner to look forward to. In the immediate term, he should benefit from a step up to at least two and a half miles over hurdles. He is not entered at Cheltenham, but it would not be at all surprising if connections had the Grade 1 two-and-a-half-mile novices’ hurdle at Punchestown in mind.

© The Irish Field, 28th February, 2009