Horses To Follow » Pasco


Pasco ran a great deal better in the Grand Annual Chase than his finishing position in ninth place suggests. Usually a prominent racer – he made all when he won his beginners’ chase at Newbury last November – Sam Thomas kicked him off in fourth place, but he lost his prominent position quite quickly behind the frenetic pace that was set by confirmed front-runner Lorient Express. Kept wide, he got into a nice rhythm down the far side and moved up threateningly at the top of the hill, leaving the impression that he was going to have a say in the finish, but he had done a lot of running just to get there, and that eventually took its toll as he faded up the home straight.

A helter-skelter two-mile chase on good ground at Cheltenham was never going to play to Pasco’s strengths, and it was not at all surprising that Ruby Walsh chose to ride his stable companion Poquelin in the race instead. All of Pasco’s best performances have been when there has been at least a little big of cut in the ground. His four wins over hurdles and fences since coming to the UK have been gained at Newbury and Huntingdon, both flat tracks. The only time that he did not finish in the first three in the UK was when he was pulled up in last year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, also, of course, at Cheltenham. He is a long-striding horse who is ideally suited to a flat track and some cut in the ground, neither of which he had in the Grand Annual. He is much better than he was able to show there.

There is a real chance that the Selkirk gelding’s handicap rating of 141 still under-estimates his ability. More than that, he is still hugely progressive. He is just six years old and has run in just four steeplechases to date. As such, the Red Rum Handicap Chase at Aintree could be the race for him. Historically, novices have done well in that race, the flat track will suit and, unlike Cheltenham, Aintree is a track that usually favours prominent racers. Pasco could go well in that race at a decent price if he is allowed take his chance in it. Even if he doesn’t, he should be worth following wherever he goes next.

© The Sunday Times, 22nd March, 2009