Horses To Follow » Somersby


Although a 40/1 shot, Somersby ran a really nice race to finish third in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle last Tuesday. Ridden around the outside the whole way, he got outpaced when they stepped it up going down the hill on the far side, but he stayed on really well over the final flight and up the hill to snatch third place from Copper Bleu on the line.

Although he finished three lengths behind Go Native and Medermit, this was still an admirable performance from a really nice individual. Winner of his only bumper last season, the son of Second Empire won a really decent maiden hurdle, a race that has been won in the past by Lord Henry and Calling Brave, on his second start over hurdles at Kempton last November. It looked like a useful race this year as well as the horse that Somersby beat into second place was Clova Island, who won on his subsequent start and would have given the exciting Indian Blood a bit of a race next time at Newbury had he not fallen at the last.

Somersby ran once between that win at Kempton and Cheltenham. That was in a really hot Class 3 hurdle, as good as a graded race, at Ascot, where he finished third behind last week’s Ballymore Properties runner-up Karabak, and Emma Lavelle’e highly thought-of gelding Kangaroo Court. He had no chance with the front pair that day, but he still kept on nicely and finished clear of some well-regarded rivals.

That race was over two and a half miles, so you would have thought that the Ballymore Properties was the race for him at Cheltenham, but that would have been without taking into account the fact that he is trained by Henrietta Knight. Knight is always one to err on the side of the shorter distance for her high class contenders in the early stages of their careers in the interest of longevity. Remember that she ran subsequent triple Gold Cup hero Best Mate in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle as a hurdler, and she would have run him in the Arkle as a novice chaser had Foot and Mouth not intervened. She also ran Calgary Bay in the Supreme Novices’ last year and in the Arkle this year despite the fact that he is crying out for a trip.

Somersby is built like a chaser, so the fact that he was able to finish third in a Supreme Novices’ Hurdle is highly commendable. He races like he needs further than two and a half miles, and he is out of a Presenting mare, a full-sister to Horner Woods, who chased Cooldine home in the RSA Chase last Wednesday. He is only five years old, and he is of huge interest as a novice chaser next season. He could easily be an Arkle horse, as that is probably the route that he will take, although you suspect that two and a half miles will be his optimum next season, with races like the Dipper Chase and the Scilly Isles featuring on his radar. Looking even further ahead, it would not be at all surprising if he made up into a Gold Cup prospect at some stage in the future.

10th March, 2009