Horses To Follow » Karabak


Karabak ran a hell of a race to finish second to Big Buck’s in the re-scheduled Long Walk Hurdle at Newbury on Tuesday. Held up out the back in the early stages, JP McManus’s gelding made nice progress early in the home straight on the far side behind Fair Along and Big Buck’s. Nothing travelled better than him down to the second last, but he got in a little tight to that obstacle and landed flat-footed as Ruby Walsh went for home on the favourite. There was a lot to like about the manner in which Karabak dug in from that point and got after the favourite, he jumped the last a little better and kept battling all the way to the line, beating Diamond Harry to the runner-up spot.

While he was never going to get to the winner, this was still a hugely encouraging performance from Karabak on a number of levels. For starters, it proved beyond all doubt that he stays three miles. With Lough Derg and Fair Along setting a really fast pace for the distance on the ground, there was no hiding place, you really had to see out the distance, and Karabak ran all the way to the line. He did disappoint on his only previous try over the distance, in the Sefton Hurdle at Aintree last April, so it wasn’t certain that he had the stamina for the distance. Now it is. This was probably the best performance of Karabak’s life, which proves that he is still progressing and that he has probably improved for the step up to three miles. He has only just turned seven and has raced just seven times over hurdles to date, so there is probably still some improvement left in him, especially now that connections know that he stays. In confirming last season’s Ballymore Properties Hurdle form with Diamond Harry, he established himself as the main pretender to Big Buck’s’s World Hurdle title. There is a chance that Diamond Harry may now be sent over fences, so he may not even be a factor in the race next March. The big question is can Karabak improve sufficiently to beat Big Buck’s next March? It is a huge target. Big Buck’s is immense. He has never been beaten in six starts over three miles or more over hurdles. He does hit a flat spot in his races, but so did Inglis Drever, and he won three World Hurdles. That said, it is not impossible that Karabak can make up the ground, now that connections know that he stays and can ride him accordingly, perhaps a little more aggressively than on Tuesday. He has won at Cheltenham, but he has also won at Ascot. Big Buck’s has never raced right-handed, and it may be that Karabak’s best chance of beating the Paul Nicholls horse will be in the Long Walk Hurdle next year back at Ascot. In the short term, he should have a favourite’s chance in the Cleeve Hurdle should Big Buck’s go straight to the World Hurdle, and he is the most likely beneficiary should the favourite under-perform in the World Hurdle in March.

29th December 2009