Horses To Follow » Cappa Bleu

Cappa Bleu

There was a lot of talk about Cappa Bleu before he won the Foxhunter on Friday, lots of conjecture about whether he had done enough to earn a rating that would get him into the race, and there was even more talk about him afterwards. All of it was justified.

This was the Pistolet Bleu gelding’s first run under rules (hence the consternation about whether or not he would get into the race), yet he jumped the Cheltenham fences like an old hand. He travelled really well through the race, moved up on the inside around the home turn and stayed on well up the hill.

Of course, there is a massive gulf in class between the Foxhunter and the Gold Cup, but there is a real chance that Cappa Bleu will be able to bridge it. Certainly, the signals are there. The last horse to win the Cheltenham Foxhunter on his racecourse debut was Rushing Wild in 1992, and he went on to win the Anthony Mildmay Peter Cazalet Chase at Sandown the following January before returning to Cheltenham to finish second to Jodami in the Gold Cup that March. Like Cappa Bleu, he was just seven when he won the Foxhunter.

Also, this looked like a high class Foxhunter beforehand, and the clock confirms that it probably was. The time of the race was just over nine seconds slower than the time that it took Kauto Star to complete the same course and distance 35 minutes earlier, which is just about average for a Foxhunter (Amicelli’s time in the Foxhunter last year was over 13 seconds slower than Denman’s in the Gold Cup), but, given that this year’s Gold Cup was almost certainly a vintage renewal – Kauto Star earned the highest Racing Post Rating of his career for winning it and he has now been awarded an official rating of 184 on the back of it, which makes him the highest-rated chaser in training, higher even than Master Minded – it must have been a vintage Foxhunter as well.

In the immediate term, there shouldn’t be a hunter chaser in training who will beat Cappa Bleu in the Horse and Hound Cup at Stratford in June. Looking further ahead, as he is owned by State Of Play’s owners, William and Sheila Rucker, he will go to Evan Williams, and will be trained under rules for next year season. The Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury looks like an obvious target. He hasn’t been allotted a published handicap rating yet, but the handicapper can’t go too mad, this was just a hunter chase after all. Rushing Wild was allotted a mark of 132 for his handicap debut in 1992 and, if Cappa Bleu was awarded a similar mark, he would get into the Hennessy in the low 10 stones and would be of huge interest for a race that Williams won with State Of Play in 2006. Cappa Bleu will be eight next year and there is every chance that he will make up into a genuine Gold Cup contender.

13th March, 2009