Horses To Follow » Sanctuaire


No prizes for originality, but Sanctuaire was so impressive in landing the Fred Winter Hurdle at Cheltenham on Wednesday that he is worth inclusion here. There is no telling how good he could be. Ruby Walsh held the French-bred up early and tracked horses towards the outside. He hurdled as well as you would expect a four-year-old to and began to move into the race at the top of the hill. Still just worse than mid-division coming to the third last but always travelling sweetly, he cruised in behind the leaders to go fourth after the second last and was the only horse still on the bridle as they turned to face the hill. He moved up alongside the running-on Notus De La Tour with ease approaching the last and when Walsh pressed the button on the short run-in, the reaction was immediate and Sanctuaire pulled away to win by nine lengths from Notus de la Tour with Orsippus back in third.

Beaten twice in two runs last autumn in his native France, Sanctuaire made his debut for Paul Nicholls at Taunton last month, when he ran on strongly to win his maiden hurdle well. He has reportedly had his problems, but there was no disguising the regard in which Nicholls and Ruby Walsh held him, and his rating of 127 for his handicap debut obviously under-estimated his ability significantly. On this performance, he had to have gone close to winning the Triumph Hurdle had he run in that race instead of in the juvenile handicap. Given his inexperience, it was particularly impressive the way he travelled through the race and when asked he easily asserted up the hill on the short run-in. He won his maiden on soft ground at Taunton after being placed on very soft ground at Auteil last October, but he seemed more at home on this sounder surface which augurs well for possible targets at Aintree or Punchestown.

Odds of 16/1 for next year’s Champion have to be taken with a pinch of salt, a bookmaker’s price, but Sanctuaire is still a high class prospect. He may even go chasing next year where the Arkle would be an obvious target. In the coming weeks, Nicholls has said that he is keen to keep him away from stablemate Escort’men who will probably run in the Grade 2 juvenile hurdle at Aintree, but its likely Sanctuaire will run at either Aintree or Punchestown. He would be interesting if he took on his elders at either venue, where his age allowance would be a useful asset.

17th March 2010