Horses To Follow » Oh Crick

Oh Crick

Oh Crick seems to be getting better and better. He travelled like the most likely winner of the Red Rum Chase at Aintree last Thursday for most of the way, jumped really well, moved up just behind the leaders on the run to the third last and just about took it up on the run to the last. A slight mistake there allowed long-time leader Lord Jay Jay back in, and that horse went back up by a head or a neck, but Oh Crick found plenty when Robert Thornton picked him up and he went on to win fairly cosily in the end.

The Nikos gelding looks to be coming of age now. He was a really game winner of the Grand Annual Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, himself and Moon Over Miami pulling miles clear of their rivals, and he won this in similar fashion, arriving there before the last, making a mistake at that obstacle, allowing the leader back in, and then running on really strongly to win by less than a length. He was raised 9lb for his Cheltenham win, which made his task on Thursday all the more difficult, but he was more than up to it, and the time of the race was impressive, by far the fastest comparative time of the day.

Fota Island is the only other horse who managed to do the Grand Annual/Red Rum Chase double in recent times, and he was good enough to finish second in the Champion Chase the following season. Is it stretching things to say that Oh Crick could prove to be up to Champion Chase standard? Perhaps, but perhaps not. Fota Island was rated 142 when he won the Red Rum Chase, Oh Crick was rated 139. It may not have been a vintage Champion Chase in which Fota Island was second – he certainly didn’t have anything like Master Minded with which to contend – but Alan King has to at least have next year’s Champion Chase in the back of his mind for Oh Crick. He is only six, he will only be seven by the time Cheltenham rolls around next year, he has raced just eight times over fences, and he is hugely progressive. He obviously has Cheltenham Festival winning form, and you know that he will be given every chance by Alan King to prove that he is good enough to take his seat at the top table and that, if he does, he will be trained to the minute for the race. Master Minded and Kalahari King excepted, with Forpadydeplasterer probably stepping up in distance and Well Chief stepping up again in age, it is difficult to find many more real live contenders for next season’s Champion Chase. Oh Crick could be one.

In the shorter term, if he does happen to run at Ayr or Sandown or Punchestown before the end of the season, either in a handicap or in one of the graded two-mile chases, he should be worth noting. He is a horse who only just does enough, so it is difficult for the handicapper to catch hold of him, and a 7lb hike for his Red Rum win looks decidedly lenient. He may remain under-rated.

© The Irish Field, 11th April 2009