Horses To Follow » Viking Blond

Viking Blond

Viking Blond had clearly improved for his seasonal debut and ran a race full of promise in the Listed Jardine Lloyd Thompson Handicap Hurdle over the extended three-mile-one-furlong trip at Cheltenham on Saturday. Settled on the outside of the field, he made headway down the back on the first circuit to settle just behind the leaders. He jumped nimbly for such a deep-chested horse and took it up at the top of the hill for the final time with stable mate Ackertac. He skipped over the second last and pulled four lengths clear of everything else turning in. However he was in front plenty early enough and proved to be a sitting duck for the back-to-form Cross Kennon. He ran on all the way to the line though, despite having to be switched when the winner crossed in front of him, and put distance between himself and the fourth and fifth, Raslan and Ackertac, after the last.

This was a most encouraging run from Nigel Twiston-Davies’ gelding as the ground would have been lively enough for him. His wins last season at Exeter and Chepstow, both over three miles on testing ground, really showed him to possess stamina in spades. Cross Kennon just had slightly too much pace for him here; if the ground had been softer Viking Blond may well have won this race.

He is powerfully built for a five-year-old and most likely still has some more growing to do. Very much one for the shortlist in any long distance hurdle race when the ground is testing, there is a good deal of scope even in his new rating of 134, 5lb higher than the mark off which he raced here. He is a dour galloper who relentlessly keeps on rolling when many have cried enough. He demonstrated here though that he is more than just a plodder as he showed some class to skip clear of the field after the second last, and he is one to follow through the winter months.

13th November 2010