Horses To Follow » Oh Crick

Oh Crick

Oh Crick, third behind Twist Magic and Petit Robin, was the eye-catcher for me in the Victor Chandler Chase at Ascot on Saturday. The pace was steady in the early stages as Lennon ambled along in front, but picked up when Ruby and Twist Magic went on going past the winning post first time, which was a positive for Alan King’s gelding. Settled in sixth of the seven runners in the early stages. He jumped to his left throughout, and he wasn’t helped by Cornas jumping across him at a couple of fences on the run down to Swinley Bottom. He couldn’t go with them when Twist Magic and Petit Robin went at each other up front running down the side of the track, but then nothing else could as they pulled clear of their field, and he continued to jump out to his left while remaining in sixth place but in touch with the rest of the field. He had to have been more 25 lengths behind the front pair going over the last on the side of the track, the third last, and he had to have been around 10 or 12 lengths behind third-placed Cornas, but he stayed on really well up the home straight and over the last two fences to catch and pass Cornas over the last, and get to within a length of Petit Robin.

It is easy to argue that Petit Robin faded as a result of getting into a scrap with Twist Magic, and that if Twist Magic hadn’t been in the race, Petit Robin would have beaten Oh Crick much more comprehensively, but it was still a huge performance from Oh Crick. This was just his second run of the year, his first since he ran disappointingly in the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter at the start of November, and this was much more like it. Alan King’s yard has taken a long time to get going this season, but indications are that the trainer is just getting his team where he wants them, and that is essential if Oh Crick is to be competitive in the top races this spring. There is every chance that he can be. Winner of four of his last five races over hurdles, it took him a little while to get his eye in as a chaser last season, his first over fences, and it was an astute move by Alan King to run him in the Grand Annual at the Cheltenham Festival last March off a mark of 130 instead of in once of the novices’ races, as he duly went in. More than that, he followed up in the Red Rum Chase at Aintree, another hugely competitive two-mile chase, off a 9lb higher mark. He was a little disappointing in the Haldon Gold Cup on his debut this season, and an official mark of 148 suggests that he has a long way to go to be competitive with the top class two-milers (Twist Magic was rated 173 before Saturday, Petit Robin was rated 165), but he has only just turned seven, he has run just 10 times over fences in his life, and he seems to be at his best in the spring. Also, the fast pace and the big field that these big two-mile handicaps generate seem to bring out the best in him. With Alan King’s horses just hitting top form now, he will be interesting if he takes his chance in the Blue Square Chase at Doncaster on 6th February. He should get the fast pace there that he needs, and he should be happier back on a left-handed track. Looking further ahead, he wouldn’t be completely out of the Champion Chase, where the better ground, the track orientation, the fast consistent pace and the fact that he has already won at the Cheltenham Festival will all be in his favour.

23rd January 2010

© The Irish Field, 30th January 2010