Horses To Follow » China Rock

China Rock

China Rock did well to finish fourth in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown on Saturday. Always prominent, Mouse Morris’s horse jumped superbly on the outside of The Listener and Let Yourself Go, and he moved up alongside the British raider at the fence before they headed out onto the back straight for the second time. Kept wide by Paul Carberry down the back straight, obviously in search of the best ground, which made sense on a horse who is at his best on good ground, he took it up from Nick Mitchell’s horse before the third last, and he moved on, going at least six or seven lengths clear on landing over the second last. But China Rock is a horse who may only just get three miles, and he tired early in the home straight. He jumped the last fence only third, and kept on up the run-in to finish fourth, seven lengths behind Joncol in third and 16 lengths behind the winner Kempes.

It may be that China Rock will be better over a distance just short of three miles. He is probably a better horse on better ground as well, he was second to Kempes in last season’s Grade 1 Champion Novice Chase at Punchestown on good ground and he was an impressive seven-length winner at Punchestown over two miles and seven furlongs on similar ground earlier this season, with Sizing Europe back in second.

Over hurdles, China Rock was good enough to finish a close fourth to Mikael D’Haguenet in the Ballymore Property Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival two years ago. He produced his best effort over fences on his penultimate run, when he was beaten just over four lengths by Kauto Star at Down Royal on soft ground. He is not in the Ryanair Chase, which is a shame, he has run really well twice at the Cheltenham Festival already, two seasons ago as a novice hurdler, as mentioned, and last season when he was fourth to Copper Bleu in the Jewson Chase, run over the Ryanair course and distance. That said, it may be that Punchestown is now his goal, given how well he ran there last season, and again in beating Sizing Europe there this season. The three-mile Guinness Gold Cup could be within his compass as long as it is run on good ground, which is more likely than not, given that Punchestown runs from 3rd to 7th May this year, and he may do even better if ridden with more restraint.

12th February 2011