Horses To Follow » Rock Noir

Rock Noir

Rock Noir disappointed in finishing a distant third behind Fiendish Flame at Bangor on Wednesday, he just stopped quickly on exiting the back straight after appearing to travel well. There has to be a question mark over him as a result, but it was just too bad a performance to be true, and he remains a horse of some interest. On his previous run, in winning a good novices’ chase run over two miles and a furlong at Exeter on Haldon Gold Cup day, he put in a performance that was somewhere near the best of his form in France for the first time in Britain. He was a bit free in the early stages of that race, but it was nothing that AP McCoy couldn’t deal with, and he jumped more than adequately behind the leaders. He had obviously done some intensive schooling at Jackdaws Castle since his chase debut at Huntingdon in early October where he was very keen and did not jump fluently at all.

The second and third here, Phidippides and Qozak, are very useful sorts, with Phidippides in particular having the potential to go a long way over fences. It always looked like Rock Noir had that one’s measure up the straight but he had to work quite hard after the last as the Evan Williams-trained horse did not give up. Encouragingly for the front two, they pulled 19 lengths clear of the 146-rated hurdler Qozak who seemed to have no immediate excuse. The time of the race was only 3.6 seconds slower than the time that Tchico Polos clocked in the Haldon Gold Cup in which there were more than twice as many runners as in Rock Noir’s race and in which they flew from early.

Winner of five races on the bounce at Auteuil last year after a debut second-place finish, beating Jumbo Rio in the last of them, a Grade 1 four-year-old hurdle, Rock Noir was a high-profile recruit to JP McManus’s team last year. Such was the regard in which he was held, he was sent off as short as 9/1 for the County Hurdle despite being rated 152, burdened with 11st 12lb and it being his first run for four months (his first in Britain) and his first on a lively surface. Although he was ultimately well beaten at Cheltenham, the confidence in him spoke for itself. The Jonjo O’Neill gelding is only five and he could still take high order over fences this season.

2nd November 2010