Horses To Follow » Offshore Account

Offshore Account

Offshore Account ran a hell of a race in the Grand National last Saturday. Kicked off in mid-division by David Casey, he gained so much ground by the quality and exuberance of his jumping over the first three fences that he came out of the third fence, the big ditch, in fifth place. Casey did his best to curb the horse’s enthusiasm. He got him back on his hocks a bit over the fourth, but he got in a little tight to that obstacle and Darkness jumped across him, causing the rider to snatch up and move a little further to the outside. Offshore Account settled down a little better thereafter, but his jumping was no less fluent for that.

Casey got him into a lovely rhythm and his jumping was seamless. He was still a little more free than ideal and, by the time they jumped the first on the second circuit, he was one of a line of five horses that were hunting up the leader Black Apalachi. From there until the Canal Turn, Charlie Swan’s gelding didn’t miss a beat. With a clear sight of his fences, he was able to measure each one up and jump out over it almost without breaking stride, as fluent as Irish Raptor had been in the Topham on the Thursday. He jumped the big ditch as if it was a hurdle, he stood well off Becher’s and flew it and, with the departure of Black Apalachi and Silver Birch at that obstacle, by the time they reached the Canal Turn final time, he was in front. He did get in a little close to Valentine’s, but he was clever over it, and he was soon back in his rhythm down the side of the course, despite the close attentions of a couple of loose horses.

However, although he led the field across the Melling Road and around the home turn, it was soon apparent that he was a spent force. He jumped the second last a tired horse, and Casey dropped hands on him after that, allowing him to come home in his own time, a remote 15th, some 100 lengths behind the winner.

It was understandable that Offshore Account should run freely and should tire as he did. This was just his second run in 15 months, and just his second run over fences since he won the Ellier Developments Novices’ Chase at Punchestown in April 2007. He may have been a slightly fortuitous winner of that contest – Aces Four probably had his measure when he came down at the last – but it was still a classy effort given that he had fellow novices Snowy Morning, One Cool Cookie and Knight Legend well behind him. No better than average over hurdles, he was a really progressive novice chaser during that season, winning his last four of five starts as a novice, and trainer Charlie Swan thought enough of him to allow him take his chance against Kauto Star and Exotic Dancer and Beef Or Salmon in the Betfair Chase at Haydock in November 2007.

He is a half-brother to The Listener, Fork Lightning and Distant Thunder, so it is no real surprise that he jumps and stays. His run on Saturday reminded me a lot of Hedgehunter’s run in the 2004 Grand National, also, perhaps coincidentally, ridden by David Casey, when he jumped for fun but just ran out of puff on the approach to the last. Of course, Hedgehunter came back the following year and won the race doing handsprings with 11st 1lb on his back, still the only horse since 1983 to have carried more than 11st to victory.

Hedgehunter was an eight-year-old in 2004, so it was understandable that he was better equipped to handle the rigours of the National as the following year as a nine-year-old. Offshore Account is already nine, but he has still raced just seven times over fences, so it is possible that there is further improvement to come. Certainly, if Charlie Swan can get him to Aintree next year just a little less fresh than he was this year, he could be a big player in the race.

Some of the firms are already betting on next year’s National, going up to as big as 50/1, and Offshore Account isn’t quoted, so it looks like he is being under-rated as a candidate for next year. As a 10-year-old, he will be the right age for the race, and it would be surprising if Charlie Swan did not train him specifically for it next season. Hedgehunter didn’t run in a chase during the 2004/05 season until the National weights were published.

One slight concern is that neither The Listener not Distant Thunder stayed much beyond three miles. However, Fork Lightning did, and Offshore Account himself stayed on well to land that Ellier Developments race over three miles and a furlong as a seven-year-old. He has every chance of staying the four-and-a-half-mile trip, and he is one to have in the back of your mind for next year.

4th April 2009