Horses To Follow » Weird Al

Weird Al

Weird Al confirmed that he is a staying novice chaser of some potential when he won the two-mile-five-furlong contest at Cheltenham on Friday. It was difficult to see through the fog at times, but it was still apparent from early that nothing wanted to lead, Minella Theatre and AP McCoy eventually consenting to make it with Weird Al on his outside. The pace was consequently fairly slow, which wouldn’t have suited a couple of the contenders, most notably Minella Theatre, who will be better suited by a more stern test of stamina and may be under-rated in the future. But it wouldn’t have suited Weird Al either. He is a half-brother to a winner of a three-mile hurdle, his pedigree is all stamina and he is built like a staying chaser, but he still showed plenty of pace here. He jumped well for Noel Fehily up on the outside of Minella Theatre and went on after the third last. He was a little deliberate when he was out in front over the second last, apparently with the race in the bag, and he landed a little flat-footed over the last, which gave a squeak to Pigeon Island, who was rallying on the near side. But Weird Al picked up impressively again when Fehily asked him, sticking his neck out and racing enthusiastically up the hill to win well, going away.

You can pick holes in this race. Five-horse races are often unsatisfactory, the pace wasn’t fast, the time was slow, favourite Awesome George didn’t appear to run his race, perhaps because of the slow early pace, and runner-up Pigeon Island isn’t the most natural of jumpers over a fence, although he is getting better. Even so, Weird Al could do no more than win, and win well. You can never be certain of a horse’s stamina, and Ian Williams’s gelding has never been beyond two miles and five furlongs in his life, but his breeding, his racing style and his physique suggests that he has every chance of getting the distance of the RSA Chase, which is apparently his target. He stayed on well to win a two-mile-five-furlong novices’ hurdle on soft ground at Warwick last November, and then, on his first appearance since then, his debut over fences, he was given a patient ride out the back, and stayed on really well to just beat the talented Knockara Beau in a good novices’ chase at Cheltenham’s November meeting on easy ground. He has to be on your shortlist for the RSA Chase even at this early stage. He is six years old, rising seven, the right age for the race, he has raced just four times in his life, there is no telling by how much he can improve, he jumps well, he has proven that he can be ridden handily or in behind, he has pace, he has every chance of staying, and he has now won twice at Cheltenham in as many attempts. With some small question marks over one or two of those ahead of him in the RSA betting, odds of 16/1 are more than fair.

11th December 2009

© The Irish Field, 19th December 2009