Horses To Follow » Mille Chief

Mille Chief

Mille Chief stamped his authority all over the Class 2 32 Red Handicap Hurdle at Sandown on Saturday, putting himself right in the Champion Hurdle picture as a result. On ground that would have been too soft he settled on the inside of midfield and was very quick over his hurdles – even when he got in too close he was good over them. His slick jumping moved him into fourth place moving out of the back straight, still cantering, and it wasn’t long before he cruised upsides Sophie’s Trophy after the second last, and really went away from that one when asked after the last. He put distance between himself and the runner-up very quickly with the winning margin of six lengths not getting close to representing his authority (there was a further six lengths back to the third too).

Alan King could not hide his excitement after the race. He has always spoken very highly of this horse and he now appears to be vindicated. Mille Chief settled better today than he usually does and he seems to be improving with his racing. He is all about speed and the time here was very good, by far the quickest of the three two-mile hurdles that were run on the card, over three seconds faster than the time the potentially high class Minella Class clocked in winning the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle.

The plan had been to go for the Toteport Trophy next but King has not even entered him for that now, expressing his disappointment with the 13lb rise Mille Chief got for winning this, so he is now due to take in a Champion Hurdle trial before a crack at the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in March. He could well develop into a major candidate for that, notwithstanding the poor record that five-year-olds ostensibly have in the race. While Katchit is the only five-year-old since See You Then in 1985 to win it, there have been signs of late that five-year-olds are not finding it as tough as they used to. Punjabi was the only other five-year-old in Katchit’s renewal in 2008 and he finished third, the five-year-olds Celestial Halo and Binocular were beaten a neck and a head by Punjabi in 2009, while Zaynar finished third last year. From minimal representation, five-year-olds actually have an outstanding recent record in the Champion Hurdle. Also, King said on Saturday that Mille Chief was a better horse than Katchit. The Champion Hurdle is developing into a mouth-watering contest with a serious number of legitimate contenders, but 25/1 about Mille Chief at this stage is more than fair.

8th January 2011