Horses To Follow » Dunguib


Strange to be putting up Dunguib as a horse to follow now after he got beaten at odds-on in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, but many things conspired against him at Cheltenham, and there is a small chance that he will be under-rated now on the back of this run. First of all, it is probable that this was a really hot Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. The winner Menorah clocked a big speed figure when he beat Bellvano on his penultimate run before Cheltenham at Kempton on St Stephen’s Day and went into the race on a handicap rating of 148, while runner-up Get Me Out Of Here went into the race unbeaten in five runs, four runs over hurdles, including the Totesport Trophy, and had a rating of 150 going into the race. To put those handicap ratings into context, none of the previous five Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winners boasted a rating that high even after they had won the Festival curtain-raiser.

Secondly, Dunguib didn’t get the run of the race. Race tactics were probably to get him settled out the back and keep him wide so that he would have room at his hurdles, but the race was run at a relatively slow pace, which wasn’t ideal for any horse who was held up in the race. The final time for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle was almost three seconds slower than the final time for the Champion Hurdle, run over the same course and distance later in the day, but, on crude hand-timings (sectional times at Cheltenham anyone?), they lost all of that time and more in the first part of the race. The novices took about four seconds longer to reach the fourth flight than the Champion Hurdlers did. Of the four horses who filled the first four places in the Supreme Novices’ – and the first four finished clear of the rest of the field – Menorah, Get Me Out Of Here, Dunguib and Oscar Whisky, Menorah and Oscar Whisky raced fairly handily, Dunguib and Get Me Out Of Here raced further back than ideal off the slow pace. Also, Dunguib had to make up a lot of ground into a quickening pace going down the hill just to get into a position from where he could launch a challenge, and he was about seven horse-widths wide on the home turn, so he actually did remarkably well to finish as close as he did to two potentially top class performers.

Thirdly, it is probable that Dunguib is more about stamina than speed, in which case the slow early pace was against him on two counts. The Cheltenham Bumper, which Dunguib won last year by 10 lengths, is almost always won by a horse whose main strength is stamina rather than speed despite the fact that it is a two-mile contest. Of the 18 Champion Bumper winners to date, somewhat surprisingly perhaps, Montelado, the first winner, remains the only horse to win the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle the following year. Monsignor won the Sun Alliance Hurdle, Florida Pearl won the Sun Alliance Chase, Hairy Molly ran in the Albert Bartlett Hurdle, Alexander Banquet started second favourite for the Sun Alliance Hurdle the following year and went on to win the Hennessy. All stamina. Dunguib is by Presenting out of a mare who won over two miles and six furlongs, from the family of Cruise The Fairway, a three-mile chaser. It is probable that he needs a true test at two miles to be seen at his best, and it may be that he will prove to be even more effective if and when he is stepped up to two and a half or even three miles. The best performance of his career to date was in the Deloitte Hurdle over two and a quarter miles, the longest distance over which he has ever competed. He would be a really exciting novice chaser next season if Philip Fenton and his owners were minded to go down that route.

16th March 2010

© The Irish Field, 27th March 2010