Horses To Follow » Qaspal


The Philip Hobbs-trained Qaspal put up a really taking performance to win a decent two-and-a-half-mile novices’ handicap hurdle at Sandown on Friday. Kicked off out the back, last of the 12 runners in the early stages of the race, by AP McCoy, the son of Subotica always wanted to go a fair bit faster than the champ wanted, he was always doing a little more than ideal. He did settle a little going past the winning post first time, but as soon as they raced down the hill on the approach to the back straight again, he was off again, pulling his rider’s arms. Still last going over the last flight in the back straight, but not too far off the leaders, McCoy took him to the far side of the pack up the home straight, usually the softest part of the track when the ground is soft, as it was on Friday, obviously happy that he had enough in hand to cope with the ground and more concerned with getting a clear run, which he duly did as they scrimmaged a little for position on the stands side. Just a half a length behind the leader Regal Approach jumping the second last, Qaspal moved on between the last two flights under minimal encouragement from McCoy, jumped the last two lengths clear, and careered away up the run-in, ears pricked, to win, eased down, by about four lengths. It was an impressive performance, his jumping was good, and he pulled clear of a pair of useful rivals in Regal Approach and Rebeccas Choice.

JP McManus’s horse was more than entitled to win this. The handicapper had raised him 14lb for winning at Kempton seven days previously, but he got to race off his old mark of 110 here and, because it was a conditional jockeys’ race, he didn’t even have to carry a mandatory penalty. The handicapper will undoubtedly have another go now, he will probably give him another few pounds on top of his intended new mark of 124, but he looks really progressive now, he is only six, he has raced just six times in his life, and he should still be worth following, even off a significantly higher mark. He should be even better in a better race, where a faster pace would help him settle better. Silk Affair won this Sandown race last year before she went on to win the Fred Winter Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, and it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see Qaspal show up at the Festival either, perhaps in the Coral Cup. Such is the depth of talent that JP McManus has in the handicap hurdling division that, if Qaspal does run at the Festival, his presence should be noted.

19th February 2010

© The Irish Field, 27th February 2010