Horses To Follow » Rock Noir

Rock Noir

Put up here after cosily winning a novices’ chase at Exeter in early November from Phidippides and Qozak, Rock Noir has subsequently run two very likeable races, most recently in the Scilly Isles Chase, a Grade 1 at Sandown last Saturday.

AP McCoy settled him on the inside just behind the first bunch of runners, before he crept closer going out on the final circuit. He was travelling smoothly, as is his wont, in fourth or fifth as they came to the Railway fences second time, but he didn’t jump them with any fluency, hitting the top of the first one quite hard and getting in much too tight to the third of them. He still travelled well enough away from them however, part of a group of six who had gone clear of the other three runners, including the highly talented mare Nadiya De La Vega. He seemed to get slightly caught off guard when Medermit and Mr Gardner quickened up away from the Pond Fence and couldn’t quite go with them. He did run on but could not close the gap on Medermit and Captain Chris, while a combination of his jumping errors taking their toll and a step up in trip and class meant he narrowly failed to catch Mr Gardner for third.

Medermit is a high class horse who is really getting his act together over fences now, having run out on his second start at Huntingdon earlier in the season. He just failed to get up to win the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle two seasons ago and was up to Champion Hurdle class last term, winning the Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock from the then-reigning Champion Hurdler Punjabi. Captain Chris has always been very highly regarded by connections and he too seems to be really getting his act together over the larger obstacles.

Rock Noir travels so well in his races that you would think that he would be suited to two miles, yet his jumping will be put under even more pressure in the Arkle; that is the conundrum faced by Jonjo O’Neill in trying to decide his Festival target (if indeed he goes there at all) and the situation faced by many trainers at the moment when trying to decide Festival targets for their charges. Rock Noir came over from France last year with a huge reputation and could still well be up to fulfilling it in time over fences. He is still only six, this was just his fifth run over fences, and two and a half miles could be his optimum trip for now. It may be that the best course of action is to skip Cheltenham altogether and take him to the Manifesto Chase at Aintree. It may be that his ability to travel through his races would serve him much better at Aintree than at Cheltenham.

5th February 2011