Horses To Follow » Chief Dan George

Chief Dan George

It is remarkable to think that Chief Dan George hadn’t won a race in almost two years and 10 attempts until he won a beginners’ chase at Catterick at the end of February, and he followed up in fine style in a novices’ contest over two and three-quarter miles at Kelso last Friday.

This was a decent race and a nice performance. The trip was on the short side and the ground was probably just on the fast side, but Chief Dan George jumped well in the main and got stronger as the race developed, staying on really well up Kelso’s long run-in to beat Sa Suffit, a progressive horse himself, by more than three lengths, with 14 lengths back to another useful performer, Razor Royale.

The best performance of Chief Dan George’s life was unquestionably his defeat of Wichita Lineman and Massini’s Maguire as a novice in the Sefton Hurdle at Aintree in April 2007. After that, he was touted by many as a potential World Hurdle horse the following season, and he was campaigned as such initially by Jimmy Moffatt, but he came up well short, getting well beaten in all the top long distance hurdle races during the season before finishing a well-beaten seventh behind Inglis Drever in the World Hurdle, and finishing last of the 11 runners in the Long Distance Hurdle at Aintree. His sights were lowered this season over fences, and he is reaping the rewards. He has been brought along slowly in lower grades, his confidence at his fences has been growing, and Friday’s performance was probably his best run since the Sefton Hurdle.

Looking back at that Sefton Hurdle for a second, I had him down at the time as being hugely flattered by the result. Wichita Lineman and Massini’s Maguire had gone at each other from a long way out in what looked like a match on paper, and it appeared as if they had nothing left to give, as Chief Dan George and Mick Fitzgerald just kept on at one pace and picked up the pieces. However, he still had to see out the distance well, which he did.

It may be that race took so much out of him that it took him a full season to recover. He is all stamina and he saw that race out best of all. Although he is nine years old now, he has only raced in only five steeplechases, and there is no doubt that he is still improving over the larger obstacles. He was rated 131 over fences before Saturday’s race and, while the handicapper will have to raise him a little for that win, he shouldn’t raise him by too much, and he certainly won’t be able to raise him beyond his hurdles rating of 145. As such, he could now be well handicapped over fences.

Moffatt mentioned the Scottish National as his next potential target, and that makes a lot of sense. Novices do well in the Scottish National, the extended four-mile trip should be ideal, he handles good ground well, and he should get into the race with a nice racing weight, in the low to mid 10sts, which would be ideal, given that seven of the last 10 winners of that race carried 10st 10lb or less. He is not that fashionable a horse, and he could be put in at a decent price when the ante post markets on the race open.

© The Irish Field, 28th March, 2009