Horses To Follow » Wishfull Thinking

Wishfull Thinking

Wishfull Thinking looked very good in winning a good two-mile-five-furlong handicap chase at Cheltenham on Saturday. A rating of 148 looked harsh enough for his handicap debut on the face of it, the horse who beat him on his previous run, Reve De Sivola, is rated just 141, but he is highly progressive, and he was desperately unlucky against Reve De Sivola, running on really well after being all but brought to a standstill when Othermix fell in front of him at the water jump.

Philip Hobbs’s horse hardly put a foot wrong here against far more experienced opponents. He travelled really well through the early stages of the race, perhaps a little too keenly if anything, and his jumping was fast and accurate. He took it up at the fifth last, from which point he and Calgary Bay really had the race between them. Henrietta Knight’s horse stuck to his task well, he can be a little in and out, but this is his time of year and he runs Cheltenham well, and he set a fair standard. If Wishfull Thinking had wilted even a little, or if he had made a mistake at either of the last two fences, Calgary Bay was there to make his pay, but he didn’t. He jumped the last two fences well and stayed on gallantly up the hill to hold off the challenge of Calgary Bay, who stays further than this distance. The pair finished clear of their rivals and the winning time was really good, the fastest comparative time on a high class day’s racing and over six seconds faster than the time that fellow novice The Giant Bolster clocked in winning the novices’ handicap chase run over the same course and distance a half an hour earlier.

The new Jewson Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, run over the same course and distance as this race, is the obvious race for Wishfull Thinking now. He is hugely progressive and a new handicap rating of 155 (11lb higher than current Jewson favourite Noble Prince) means that he deserves his place in graded company. He has run at Cheltenham three times now: he was travelling well when he fell at the second last in last year’s Coral Cup; he was desperately unlucky when only just beaten by Reve De Sivola in that novices’ chase in December; and now he has won this competitive handicap. Philip Hobbs and owner Diana Whateley also have exciting novices Captain Chris and Tarablaze, either of whom could be effective over this trip and either of whom could therefore run in the Jewson instead of Wishfull Thinking, but to steer this horse away from that race might not be the right call. This is his optimum trip, he travels so keenly and jumps so accurately that it wouldn’t make sense to step him up in trip, and he stays this distance well, so to send him for the Arkle may not play to his strengths. General odds of 10/1 about him for the Jewson would be very fair if you knew that that was his Festival target for sure.

29th January 2011

© The Irish Field, 5th February 2011