Horses To Follow » Mr Gardner

Mr Gardner

It looked like Mr Gardner had gone off far too fast in the two-mile-five-furlong maiden hurdle at Newbury on Friday. He and Alaghiraar got into an early tussle for the lead, so much so that it looked like the two of them had cut each others’ throats, as they had pulled fully eight lengths clear of the rest of the field by the time they reached the first flight. However, once the Henderson horse had won that minor scrimmage with Alaghiraar, McCoy was able to settle Mr Gardner down and get him into a nice rhythm. The two horses who headed the market, both useful types Fiftyonefiftyone (according to the betting the better-fancied of Nicky Henderson’s two representatives) and Fistral Beach, closed up on the leader at the end of the back straight, and Fistral Beach in particular looked to be travelling much better than the winner down the far side before the home turn, but once they straightened up it was apparent that Mr Gardner was still full of running. He pulled clear before the third last as Fistral Beach floundered, and he extended his leading margin all the way up the home straight to win by a distance.

There is a small chance that Nicky Henderson’s gelding was flattered by the visual impression that this performance created. Fistral Beach had stopped very quickly when he finished third behind Penn Da Benn on his previous start at Wincanton, and there was a chance that the same thing happened here, but he still kept on well enough to finish second, so it is reasonable to assume that Mr Gardner probably is as good as he looked here. The time of the race was really quick for a Class 3 maiden hurdle, 0.17secs/furlong faster than Racing Post standard on track that was estimated to be riding just on the slow side of good. This suggests that Mr Gardner did indeed set off at a fast pace, maybe even too fast a pace, but, unusually, was able to maintain the gallop all the way to the line.

An £85,000 purchase at Cheltenham last April after winning his point-to-point at The Pigeons by a distance, the son of Deploy had been a little disappointing in his first two runs over hurdles for Henderson, but he had been held up in both of those races. The plan last Friday was obviously to allow him stride on in front, and McCoy was never going to allow Jack Doyle on Alaghiraar de-rail that plan. It worked a dream, and Mr Gardner can go on from this. He would not be without his chance in the Sefton Hurdle at Aintree if his trainer decided to step him up in grade and in distance. He has every chance of staying the three-mile trip, the flat track should suit, he should be able to get his own way up front again and he would be well worth his place in the line-up. Even if he doesn’t go for that race, he should be worth following wherever he goes next. He is an exciting prospect.

20th March, 2009