Horses To Follow » Cornas


The form book says that Cornas finished only seventh in the Arkle last Tuesday, some 11 lengths behind Forpadydeplasterer and Kalahari King, but that doesn’t do justice to his performance. Nick Williams’s gelding was done no favours by Tatenen when that one fell in front of him at the third fence, the one in front of the stands. Daryl Jacob had to snatch him up and the horse had to be nimble to dance around his stricken rival. That was at a crucial stage in the race, just before they wheeled around the stable bend and on to the far side, and it meant that Cornas was further back and wider than ideal in the early stages.

Even so, he made nice ground down the far side and down the hill, and travelled as well as anything between the third last and the second last. A slight stumble over the second last didn’t help, and he came under pressure then. It was understandable that he then faded up the hill, he had done so much running to get himself into a challenging position, but there was a lot to like about the way that he jumped and the ease with which he made up his ground.

This was just Cornas’s third start over fences. After beating a useful rival in Idarah in his beginners’ chase at Ludlow in January, he ran a cracker to finish second to Gauvain in a hot contest at Sandown last month, in a race in which Free World, Panjo Bere and Doctor David finished third, fourth and fifth. He travelled really well in rear that day, but made a mistake at the second last just when he was being brought with what looked like a dangerous run. It is really difficult to make up ground into a quickening pace over two miles on anything but soft ground over the last two fences at Sandown, but Cornas almost got there. Fully five or six lengths down on landing over the second last, he made ground all the way to the line, just going down by a neck. It was a huge performance from one who had only run once before over fences, and he was fully deserving of his position in the Arkle line-up on the back of it.

The seven-year-old’s two wins to date have been gained at right-handed flat tracks, but I wouldn’t read too much into that. The best run of his life was probably this run in the Arkle at Cheltenham, the antithesis of a right-handed flat track. That said, given how he faded up the hill, albeit after doing all his running to get there, it could be that he will be better suited by a flat finish, and he could be one to go well at a decent price in the Maghull Chase at Aintree in two weeks’ time. Horses who have contested the Arkle (when there has been an Arkle) have won the last 14 renewals of the Maghull, and it isn’t necessarily just the Arkle winners who have triumphed at Aintree. Seven of the last 10 renewals of the Maghull (excepting the Foot and Mouth year) have been won by horses who were beaten in the Arkle.

10th March, 2009