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Michel Le Bon

Michel Le Bon put up a really nice performance on his chasing debut to land a Grade 2 novices’ chase at Newbury on Thursday. It was only a four-horse race, but it was a good race for all of that, with favourite Pettifour, among the top staying hurdlers this time last season, ending the campaign with a rating of 159, and winner of the three-mile novices’ chase at Cheltenham’s November meeting, setting a high standard. AP McCoy allowed Michel Le Bon stride on from early. He jumped the first two fences well and settled into a nice rhythm in front, his cross noseband helping the champion jockey settle him. With the exception of a mistake at the cross fence the two times that he jumped it, and leaving his hind legs in the first fence in the back straight, his jumping was really good, he was well able to stand off when McCoy saw a stride and asked him. He was a little to his left, but that wasn’t a real handicap at Newbury. He stretched them down the back straight, Pettifour closed up running around the bottom turn, but the Nicholls horse had plenty in reserve, and he went on again on the run to the fourth last, pricked his ears and careered away over the last three fences. Pettifour did fall at the second last, but he was well beaten at the time, and Michel Le Bon came home a distance clear of Bench Warrent, who isn’t at all devoid of talent.

This is a race that has been won by some talented types in the past, including Valley Henry, Shotgun Willy, Cornish Rebel, Darkness and Gone To Lunch last year, and Michel Le Bon could take his place among the top staying novice chasers this season now. A good novice hurdler last season, he was always going to improve for going a distance (he was done for toe off a slow early pace when just beaten by According To Dick over two and a half miles at Newbury in February), and so it proved when he won a three-mile hurdle on his last start last term, running out an emphatic winner, albeit against moderate enough opposition. Chasing is his game now, he is still only six, it may be significant that Paul Nicholls had no qualms about pitching him into a Grade 2 race on his chasing debut, and a lot of the Nicholls horses are, unusually, coming on for their debuts this season. Michel Le Bon should go on from this now, and he will be interesting wherever he goes next.

26th November 2009