Horses To Follow » Shillingstone


Shillingstone only finished sixth in the three-mile handicap chase at Sandown on Friday, but there was a lot to like about the performance and it augurs well for future targets. Held up out the back in the early stages by Giles Hawkins, he was still bang in contention going to the Pond Fence, and he actually came back on the bridle, just two lengths behind the leader, going around the home turn. He kept on well and was still no more than two lengths down jumping the last before lack of a recent run seemed to tell, and he faded up the run-in to finish sixth, beaten a total of about six lengths.

The eight-year-old remains a hugely likeable individual. Bred and trained by the Alner family (by a stallion, Emperor Fountain, who apparently stands five miles up the road), he won one and finished second in his other two hunter chases last season before making his debut in a handicap chase at Kempton in November, when he battled on well to beat By George, despite idling on the run-in, the pair of them 20 lengths clear. He followed up with another taking performance at Newbury later that month, when he beat the useful Scots Dragoon with any amount in hand, with the front two again more than 20 lengths clear of the enigmatic Kennel Hill. It wouldn’t be at all surprising if Sally and Robert Alner pencilled Shillingstone in for the Kim Muir at Cheltenham then, with the intention of putting him away and bringing him back for one prep run beforehand. He ran as if he was just short of peak fitness at Sandown on Saturday, as if the run would put him spot on for whatever was next. The Alners are not averse to starting potentially high class chasers off in hunter chases, and this fellow could be one of those. It is also interesting that the Alners have only had three runners in the Kim Muir and they have won it twice. Shillingstone is a progressive eight-year-old, he has run just six times in his life and just three times outside of hunter chases. The handicapper surprisingly dropped him 1lb for his Sandown run, and his new rating of 134 probably under-estimates his ability and is just right for the Kim Muir (seven of the last eight winners were rated between 125 and 134). He goes well for amateur rider Sam Allwood, and he will be of major interest if he takes his chance in the Kim Muir.

19th February 2010