Horses To Follow » Sports Line

Sports Line

Sports Line could hardly have been described as a dark horse before he made his debut over fences at Navan on Sunday, given the positive mention that trainer Willie Mullins gave him in his high profile stable tour a couple of weeks ago, so it wasn’t that surprising that he was very strong in the market beforehand, but he didn’t let his trainer or his supporters down. Sent to the front from flagfall by Ruby Walsh, his jumping was impressive, and he had all of his rivals struggling by the time they turned into the home straight and approached the third last fence. A mistake at that obstacle was the only real cause for consternation. It was a serious mistake, he just seemed to lose concentration going into the fence, and he could easily have come down or unshipped Ruby. Chasing Cars did close up on the near side as a result of that error, but you never really felt that he was going to get past the leader, who continued to travel easily. He jumped the last two fences well and picked up again noticeably on the run-in to post an impressive victory.

This was a hot beginners’ chase, and there were several other potential future winners in behind, notably Solstice Knight, Chasing Cars and Psycho, but Sports Line was by far the best horse in the race on the day. Winner of his only bumper, the son of Norwich looked like a smart novice hurdler last spring, his season ending with an impressive all-the-way win over the 2008 Cheltenham Festival Bumper runner-up Corskeagh Royale at Naas in March. He has always looked like a chaser-in-waiting, indeed, the plan after he won his bumper at Punchestown in February 2008 was apparently to go chasing sooner rather than later, but his time spent over hurdles should stand to him now. He had reportedly schooled very well over fences before last Sunday, and that was borne out in the quality of his jumping. He is still only six, and there is no telling how high he can go. He obviously handles this very soft ground well, but he was only beaten a short head in a maiden hurdle on yielding ground when his rider lost his whip on the run-in, so there is every chance that his front-running and bold jumping style will be at least as effective on better ground, and Coral’s quote of 20/1 about him for the Arkle is big enough at this stage.

21st November 2009

© The Irish Field, 28th November 2009