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Keki Buku

They went no gallop through the early stages of the two-and-a-half-mile handicap hurdle that opened proceedings at Sandown on Saturday, which didn’t suit Keki Buku at all.

Campaigned exclusively over two miles in his six runs before Saturday, the Philip Hobbs-trained gelding wanted to go a lot faster than Richard Johnson wanted through the early stages, which was fairly understandable given that he is used to travelling at two-mile pace and that he was coming back off a break of almost four months. Even so, he travelled best of all around the home turn, trading at around 6/4 in-running at that point, but his earlier exertions took their toll, and he didn’t find as much as it looked like he would. His winning chance had gone when What A Buzz jumped across him at the final flight, causing him to lose further momentum, and he just wandered up the hill to finish fifth, some 10 lengths behind the impressive winner Big Eared Fran.

This was still a noteworthy effort from the son of Kadalko, and he is still potentially high class. On his first run last season, his first over hurdles, he finished second to the highly talented Diamond Harry. He followed up by landing his novice hurdle at Wincanton, before running a cracker to finish fifth behind Sunnyhillboy in a hot two-mile handicap hurdle at Cheltenham’s November meeting.

They didn’t go a great gallop through the early stages of that race either, and Keki Buku got tapped a little for toe when the pace increased after the third last, before staying on well again up the hill. That effort suggested that the step up to two and a half miles on Saturday would suit, and his breeding does nothing to contradict that notion.

He was well backed on Saturday, so he was obviously pleasing at home, and you can easily forgive him his weak finish, given how hard he pulled through the early stages. This run should have knocked the freshness out of him, and he should settle better next time, especially if the pace is stronger.

The handicapper has left him on the rating of 120 off which he competed on Saturday. That rating probably under-estimates his ability quite significantly. He has only run four times over hurdles now, he is only six and there should be much better to come. There could be a really decent handicap hurdle in him, maybe the two-and-a-half-mile John Smith’s handicap hurdle at Aintree, or the big two-and-a-half-mile Ballymore Properties Hurdle at Punchestown in April.

© The Irish Field, 14th March, 2009