Horses To Follow » Wogan


Wogan put up a fine performance to win the Grimthorpe Chase at Doncaster on Saturday. Settled well back in the field in the early stages by Andrew Tinkler, he quite forcibly pulled for his head on passing the stands first time, with the result that Tinkler allowed him stride on around the top turn, moving from seventh place passing the stands to disputing the lead with tearaway Daldini by the time they jumped the second fence in the back straight. It was a lot of ground to make up in a short space of time, it probably isn’t the ideal way to be going on in a three-and-a-quarter-mile chase, and it probably didn’t enhance Wogan’s chance of winning. That said, it was possibly the correct thing to do given that the horse was pulling for his head, and he did win the race, so it is difficult to argue that it reduced his chance. Even so, it was a fair effort to stick to his task as well as he did up the home straight, given that he had to have expended significant energy in making up this ground at a point in the race when the whole field would have been looking to manoeuvre into position.

Jumping on at the top of the hill, Wogan travelled really well in front, pursued and joined by Killyglen from the seventh last. The Nicky Henderson horse moved on at the home turn, travelling best of all as Killyglen and the Trevor Hemmings pair Coe and Cloudy Lane gave chase. He jumped the fourth last and third last well, but he got in tight to both the second last and the last – he impressed with the manner in which he was able to flick through those fences without losing too much momentum despite the fact that he met both of them on a wrong stride – which gave Killyglen a chance, but he stayed on resolutely all the way to the line, sticking his neck out in game fashion, to repel the challenge of the Howard Johnson horse, the pair of them finishing well clear of Coe in third.

This was a massive performance by Wogan. The manner in which he kept on finding more on the run-in, despite a couple of less than fluent jumps, and despite pulling early on, was most impressive. Killyglen is a talented performer on his day when he has his conditions, which he had on Saturday, along with the additional benefits of first-time cheekpieces, winner of a Grade 2 novices’ chase at Aintree last April and as short as 15/2 for the Hennessy last November, racing off a mark that was 6lb higher than Saturday’s. Wogan beat him on merit, albeit getting 19lb, the pair of them clear in a time that was almost a half a second per furlong faster than standard on genuinely good ground.

A son of Presenting, Wogan was impressive in winning on his previous start over three miles, also at Doncaster, and he seemed to improve again for better ground and for stepping up slightly in trip. He is 10 years old, but he has had his problems, with the result that he has still raced just eight times over fences, just 14 times in total, and he is still progressive. The handicapper has given him 9lb for this, which brings him up to a mark of 138, but that still may be fair. Wogan is entered in the Jewson Chase and the Kim Muir at Cheltenham, but his trainer seemed to think on Saturday that Cheltenham may come too soon after this, and he may leave him now until Aintree, which would make a lot of sense. He has now put in the two best performances of his career at Doncaster, a left-handed relatively flat track, not dissimilar to Aintree. The three-mile handicap chase at Aintree could be the race for him if the ground is good.

6th March 2010

© The Irish Field, 13th March 2010