Horses To Follow » Ski Sunday

Ski Sunday

On a mammoth nine-race card at Kempton on Saturday, when the usually featured Lanzarote Hurdle had to play third fiddle behind the King George and the Christmas Hurdle, the performance that Ski Sunday put up in winning the two-mile handicap hurdle may have gone a little under the radar. The son of King’s Best didn’t appear to be travelling as well as the Nicky Henderson horse Skint as they turned for home, but there was a lot to like about the manner in which he picked up when AP McCoy asked him to, going on on the approach to the second last flight and galloping on willingly over the last and up the run-in to put six lengths between him and the favourite.

This was Ski Sunday’s first run over hurdles since he finished last of the 13 finishers when quietly fancied for the Scottish Champion Hurdle at Ayr in April 2009 as a juvenile when trained by Tim Vaughan. Before that, he had finished second behind Silk Affair in the Fred Winter Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, and had followed up by chasing Walkon home in the Grade 1 juvenile hurdle at Aintree, when he had Starluck 13 lengths behind him in third. He did have a run on the flat in the interim, finishing second to Phoenix Flight in a weak Newbury handicap back in May when trained by Nicky Henderson, but he had been off the track from then until Saturday, when he made his debut for Lawney Hill.

The form of Saturday’s race is solid, with the well-fancied Skint, from the Nicky Henderson yard, which sent out five winners on the day, finishing second, and the time was good, much faster than Racing Post par and just under three seconds slower than the time that Binocular clocked in winning the Christmas Hurdle off a strong pace. The rating of 133 off which Ski Sunday raced on Saturday, 10lb lower than the mark off which he raced in the 2009 Scottish Champion Hurdle, obviously gave him a huge chance, and the 10lb hike with which the handicapper has rewarded him just brings him back up to his 2009 rating, which may still under-estimate his ability. Starluck, for example, whom he beat at Aintree that year, is now rated 160. Ski Sunday is blind in his left eye, but that didn’t seem to hinder him here, it certainly didn’t affect his attitude, and it may mean that he can be even better on a left-handed track when he can go around the inside and still see his rivals. There could be plenty more to come from Ski Sunday, and he will be interesting in a big handicap hurdle, possibly the Totesport Trophy or the County Hurdle, off his current mark. (He produced a really good Topspeed figure as well.)

15th January 2011

© The Irish Field, 22nd January 2011