Horses To Follow » Somersby


Somersby ran a cracker to finish second to Sizing Europe in the Arkle Trophy. Settled in behind in the early stages of the race, his jumping was good, but perhaps not as good as it was when we last saw him in the Henry VIII Chase at Sandown in December. Just behind the leaders at the top of the hill, he got a little outpaced as they raced down the hill over the third last, where a ponderous jump didn’t help, and he was five lengths behind Sizing Europe by the time they wheeled around the home turn. From there, the Henrietta Knight stayed on really well over the last and up the run-in, passing Mad Max and Osana, and failing by just three parts of a length to catch the Henry de Bromhead-trained winner.

This was a really good Arkle. Sizing Europe was rated 167 at his peak over hurdles, an Irish Champion Hurdle winner who jumps fences really well and is now unbeaten in five runs over the larger obstacles, while Osana was second in the 2008 Champion Hurdle and was rated 165 at his peak over hurdles, and the time of the race was really good, the fastest comparative time on the day, and that includes the Champion Hurdle, and just over a second slower than the time that Big Zeb clocked in the Champion Chase over the exact same course and distance the following day on faster ground. Somersby was found wanting for two-mile pace at a crucial stage in the race, but the manner in which he stayed on strongly suggested that he would benefit from a step up in trip. He is only six, he is most progressive, having raced just three times over fences, and he should be able to take his place among the top staying chasers next season. Indeed, he is very interesting now as a Gold Cup prospect. He has the ideal profile. Best Mate was six when he was favourite for the Arkle in 2001 before Foot and Mouth intervened, Kicking King was six when he finished second to Well Chief in the 2004 Arkle, War Of Attrition was six when he ran in the 2005 Arkle, and Kauto Star was six when he was sent off as favourite for the 2006 Champion Chase. Those four horses won the Gold Cup the following year as seven-year-olds. Indeed, between them that quartet have won seven of the last nine Gold Cups. Somersby has the pace to be competitive at the highest level over two miles, yet he shapes and he looks as if he will appreciate further. Given that he is trained by Henrietta Knight, you know that he will be handled with kid gloves next year, and that he will be given every chance to prove that he is good enough to run in the Gold Cup. Kauto Star and Denman will both be 11 next March, even Imperial Commander will be up against it as a 10-year-old (still no 10-year-old has won the race since 1998), and the 16/1 at which you can back Somersby for the Blue Riband looks big even at this stage.

16th March 2010

© The Sunday Times, 28th March 2010