Horses To Follow » Iris De Balme

Iris De Balme

Iris De Balme ran a nice race to finish fifth in a two-mile-six-furlong handicap hurdle at Wetherby on Saturday on his first run in 651 days, his first since the 2007 Whitbread Gold Cup. Settled in behind the leaders and towards the outside by Tom Siddall in the early stages, his jumping was a little big and deliberate early on, as was to be expected from a staying chaser, but he did warm up as the race progressed. He travelled as well as any of his rivals around the home turn, one of a leading group of five. He seemed to grow stronger as the race progressed, and looked a real threat on the run to the second last, but he just faded from that point to finish last of the group. Nevertheless, it was a really encouraging run.

It would be naive to automatically assume that Irish De Balme will improve dramatically for this, his trainer Sean Curran has proven that he can get them fit enough at home to do themselves justice after a lengthy break. However, Iris De Balme’s leg problems and intended returns have been well documented, and the way that he raced here suggests that he simply blew up, and that he will come on appreciably for it. His rating of 141 over hurdles is the same as his rating over fences – this was his first run over hurdles in the UK – and it is just 1lb higher than the mark off which he finished fourth in the Whitbread when he was set plenty to do by Charlie Huxley. His trainer has the Aintree Grand National in mind for him, and that is interesting. A former Scottish National winner, he jumps well, he stays well, he is probably at his best on good ground and he is almost certainly a better chaser than he is a hurdler. As a 10-year-old he is the right age for the race, and his rating of 141 is ideal (nine of the last 10 winners were rated between 138 and 144). As long as he comes out of this race sound, he should be on your shortlist for the National. Best odds of 50/1 at this stage are fair.

6th February 2010

© The Irish Field, 13th February 2010