Horses To Follow » Torphichen


All the focus after the two-and-a-half-mile beginners’ chase at Limerick on Wednesday was on the winner Quel Esprit, and there was a lot to like about the performance that the Willie Mullins-trained gelding put up, but runner-up Torphichen also put up a really likeable performance to finish second, and he should be well worth following now. Settled just behind the leaders in the early stages, the Edward O’Grady-trained gelding jumped efficiently and accurately, he really attacked his fences, he seemed to enjoy jumping them. He jumped into second place at the first fence in the back straight as Quel Esprit went on, and the pair of them were clear by the time they reached the end of the back straight. Both of them travelled easily around the home turn but, when Andrew McNamara asked Torphichen for his effort on the run to the second last, he picked up impressively and went about a half a length up on the favourite. He just pecked a little on landing over the second last and, as Quel Esprit’s stamina kicked in, the grey horse rallied impressively on the far side, took it up again on the run to the last, flew that fence and kept on well up the run-in to win nicely. Torphichen ran all the way to the line, and the pair of them finished a distance clear.

Even in defeat, this was an impressive performance from Torphichen. His jumping through the early stages of the race was sure-footed and fast, he gained ground at most of his obstacles, and he was just a little unlucky not to meet the last two fences in his stride when he and Quel Esprit picked up. Quel Esprit is a potentially top class staying chaser, he was one of Willie Mullins’s big horses for Cheltenham last March as a novice hurdler, and he has always been a chaser in the making. The pair of them pulverised their field here, and the time of the race was six seconds faster than the time of the handicap chase run over the same course and distance a half an hour earlier, despite the fact that the ground was continually deteriorating as the day progressed.

A winner on the flat over 10 furlongs for Michael Jarvis, Torphichen was an exciting recruit to hurdles two seasons ago, he was impressive in winning a good race at Sandown in February last year and he was well fancied for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle a month later even as a four-year-old. Moved from David Pipe to Edward O’Grady for the start of last season, Thomas Barr’s gelding won a listed race at Naas in December, but was then well beaten behind Solwhit when stepped up to Grade 1 company for the Irish Champion Hurdle at the end of January. We didn’t see him again after that until last Wednesday, but the quality of his jumping suggests that he can be at least as good over fences as he was over hurdles, possibly better. All of his best runs, both on the flat and over jumps, have been on soft of heavy ground, and he may be at his best dropped back down to two miles. He is still just five, he had raced just six times over hurdles, and he could progress significantly now over fences. He could take a high rank among the best two-mile novice chasers this winter.

17th November 2010

© The Irish Field, 20th November 2010