Horses To Follow » Croisultan


Croisultan ran a huge race to finish second to Jumbajukiba in the listed six-furlong race at Navan on Sunday. He jumped moderately from stall four, three of the far rail, and got squeezed up a little between Le Cadre Noir and Tornado Dancer as that pair converged. By the time they had gone 200 yards, it was apparent that the race was going to develop on the stands side, as Fran Berry had bounced Jumbajukiba out of stall 13 and appeared to be intent on going in a straight line between the stalls and the winning post. The entire field tacked over towards the stands side, Croisultan more or less carried over there on the wave, and he got squeezed up again. By the time they were approaching the four-furlong pole, Croisultan found himself last, a length and a half off the second last horse and at least six lengths off the pace.

Michael Hussey then switched him back towards the far side and asked him to improve his position. At that stage, his chance looked forlorn. You really can’t be giving away as much ground and momentum as he did in the early part of a six-furlong race in this grade, and expect to be competitive. Nevertheless, he made ground under pressure on the far side into a quickening pace, passing seven of his eight rivals before succumbing to the greater strength of Jumbajukiba up the hill. He had to race mostly on his own on the far side inside the last 200 yards, probably on the worst of the ground, but it never looked like he would shirk the challenge.

This was a huge effort. Liam McAteer’s colt raced no fewer than eight times last season as a juvenile, but he remained progressive right to the end of the season. Indeed, he probably put up his best performance of the season on his last run, when he finished third, just three parts of a length behind the winner Tomas An Tsioda, in the Birdcatcher at Naas off a mark of 89. Before that he had been really impressive in landing another nursery at Navan over five furlongs under top weight of 9st 7lb.

He was a little disappointing on his debut this season at Cork on Easter Monday, but he had a big weight to lumber that day as well, and it took him a couple of runs to get going last season, so it is easy to forgive him that. Last Sunday’s contest was a huge step into the unknown, a massive test, taking on older genuine listed class performers and better (the winner, third and fourth, Jumbajukiba, Le Cadre Noir and Wi Dud, were all prior Group race winners), and he passed with honours. Even the bare form of this performance marks him down as an exciting prospect for this season but, given how the race panned out for him, he is probably even a fair bit better than he was able to show.

The son of Refuse To Bend seems versatile in terms of ground. He won on good to yielding at Bellewstown last August and he ran well to finish second in a nursery off a mark of 84 on the Polytrack at Dundalk last September, but he obviously handles this soft ground really well, so he will probably be seen to best effect of softish ground. He stays this six-furlong trip well, and he may get further in time. He actually started off as a juvenile over seven furlongs, and he is a half-brother to Northern Dune, who has won over 10 furlongs and who won a two-mile handicap at Redcar on Easter Monday.

It can be difficult for three-year-old sprinters to compete against the older horses, but it is not impossible for them, and Croisultan showed on Sunday that he is well able to race with really high class older horses. He is sure to get a significant hike from the handicapper for this, which may rule out handicaps for him, which is a shame as there are some lucrative three-year-old sprint heritage handicaps across the water these days. He could be a Jersey Stakes horse if the ground happened to come up on the easy side at Royal Ascot this year. He obviously takes his racing well (he raced three times in 16 days at the end of last season and finished in the first three each time), and if he re-appears soon while the ground remains soft, he should be worth backing.

© The Irish Field, 2nd May 2009