Horses To Follow » Whenever


You don’t usually find quality in-depth in a Class 5 maiden hurdle at Plumpton, but the opener at the Sussex track on Monday could be unusual in that regard. The three horses at the head of the market were all interesting: Fairmile, making his debut over hurdles, who was rated 107 on the flat and won a 10-furlong handicap at Epsom off that rating as recently as July, Gunslinger, another debutant, was placed a couple of times on the flat in France and won his maiden at Nottingham just 12 days previously, while Capall Eile, second in a Class 4 contest over this course and distance in September, represented the pick of those with form over hurdles. However, it was another recruit from the flat, Whenever, who won the race, and he won it on merit.

Settled nicely just behind a decent pace which was set by Capall Eile, the Richard Philipps-trained gelding jumped really well for a debutant. If anything, he gave his obstacles a little too much respect through the early stages, and he did get in tight to the last flight on the first circuit, but he quickly warmed to his task and his jumping was really slick in the main on the final circuit. Taking up the box seat just behind the leader going down the back straight, he pressed the leader going to the last flight on that section of the course, and led them leaving the back straight. At that point Gunslinger moved up in behind to take third place, and looked to be travelling by far the stronger, but Whenever found plenty in front and, despite making a fairly bad mistake at the second last, he stayed on really well over the final flight to draw right away and win impressively. With Gunslinger and Fairmile finishing second and third, the solid-looking look to the race was upheld.

Whenever did win twice on the flat at the back-end of the 2007 season, but he has been fairly regressive since. While there was a modicum of encouragement to be gleaned from his latest performance on the level, when he finished third to Mykingdomforahorse in a Class 5 contest at Salisbury at the end of September, there is no doubt that his first foray into the winter game has brought about significant improvement. It is strange the transformation that a heavier weight and eight flights of hurdles can bring about – if this race had been run on the flat, he would have been getting 39lb from Fairmile – and Whenever seemed to thoroughly enjoy his new job. The combination of track and trip would have been sharp enough for him, a horse who won over two miles on the flat as a three-year-old, and he can be seen to even better effect when he is presented with more of a stamina test.

19th October, 2009