Horses To Follow » China Rock

China Rock

China Rock was very good in winning the two-mile-six-furlong beginners’ chase at Galway on Monday. Settled back in the field and very wide by Niall Madden, his jumping was accurate and effortless on the first circuit, he frequently made ground on his rivals in the air, and he was a lot closer to the pace as they set out on the final circuit. He did give the second last on the far side a fair belt – he could easily have come down and it had to have knocked some of the stuffing out of him – and he stumbled a little on landing over the third last, but he was right on the heels of the leader, if still only fifth, approaching the second last and last fences in The Dip. Two good jumps at those fences, both times to his right, saw him emerge in front going around the home turn, and Alpha Ridge quickly came under pressure. The Paul Nolan horse did mount a serious challenge, which only failed by a neck in the end, but you always had the impression that China Rock was going to hold on. He was probably in front much earlier than Madden wanted, his jumping over the last two fences simply taking him there, and he was probably idling up the hill. He will probably be seen to even better effect if he is held up for even longer next time.

This was a good beginners’ chase, one of several this week. Alpha Ridge was a really good staying novice hurdler last season, he won the Grade 2 Galmoy Hurdle at Gowran Park last January and boasted a rating of 154 over the smaller obstacles. While China Rock only beat him by a neck, he probably had a little more in hand than that, and the pair of them finished 15 lengths clear of their rivals. China Rock was also a good novice hurdler, finishing fourth behind Mikael D’Haguenet in both the Ballymore Properties Hurdle at Cheltenham and the Land Rover Champion Hurdle at Punchestown. It was a little disappointing that he couldn’t win on his chasing debut at Gowran Park in early October, but that was over two miles on ground that would have been fast enough for him. He was much more at home on the soft ground at Galway on Monday and stepping up in trip to two and three-quarter miles. He should take his place among our top staying novice chasers this term, and would not be without his chance in the Drinmore Chase at Fairyhouse at the end of November if the ground comes up soft.

26th October 2009