Horses To Follow » Novikov


Novikov ran out a good winner of the two-mile handicap hurdle that concluded proceedings at Kempton on Saturday. Well backed beforehand, from morning prices of 8/1 and 9/1 down to an SP of 9/2, he was settled nicely out the back and on the inside rail in the early stages, just as Micheal Flips had been in the Lanzarote Hurdle earlier in the day. He was still about eight lengths behind the leader William Hogarth going down the side of the track, but Andrew Glassonbury asked him to improve up the side of the track, which he duly did, and he, the favourite and leader William Hogarth and the Gary Moore horse First Avenue came away from their field from the top of the home straight. At that point, William Hogarth was under a McCoy drive, but First Avenue looked to be travelling at least as well as Novikov, and he had the benefit of the stands rail. Glassonbury took a bit of a pull on the approach to the second last, and Novikov got in under the obstacle and needed to be squeezed a little just to get back on terms. From there, however, the Danehill Dancer gelding picked up nicely, jumped the last well and came away to win well.

You could argue that Novikov’s task was simplified by the fact that the two horses that he beat are not overly partial to a battle. William Hogarth had finished second in four of his previous five races, while First Avenue had finished second in his previous two races and third in his last race before that. However, Novikov travelled like a good horse through the race, he showed a nice turn of foot on the ground on the run-in, and the front three came a distance clear of their rivals. There could be more to come from the six-year-old now. A three-time winner on the flat for John Gosden and George Strawbridge, where he earned a rating of 90, he failed to win over hurdles for Gary Moore, but he seems to have been rejuvenated since joining David Evans. He won a seller at Uttoxeter on his debut for Evans, then put in a career-best over hurdles when he finished fourth behind Keki Buku in a decent contest at Leicester over Christmas. He raced off a mark of 112 on Saturday, and he is certain to get a decent hike for this performance, but there is no doubt that he has ability, there was obviously something holding him back last season and, if that has been eradicated, as appears to be the case, he can continue to improve. His best performances on the flat were on good ground, but he did win his maiden on good to soft, and his last three runs over hurdles – his best three runs under that code – have all been on soft ground, which is hardly surprising for a son of Danehill Dancer. He should be able to continue to progress, and he should be worth following.

16th January 2010

© The Irish Field, 23rd January 2010