Horses To Follow » Great Endeavour

Great Endeavour

The quality of Great Endeavour’s run in the Stewart Family Spinal Research Chase at Cheltenham on Tuesday may have gone a little under the radar. He completely missed the break, which was huge. The three-mile-and-half-a-furlong start on the Old Course is now a little awkward because of the re-siting of the second last fence. They used to line up right where the fence is now. On Tuesday, they lined up to the left of it, and that may have made it difficult for the starter, there was a fairly narrow gap through which the 19 runners had to squeeze in order to get onto the track, and it was all a little ragged. Great Endeavour was right out the back when the tapes went up, it looked like Timmy Murphy was appealing to the starter not to let them go, and he kicked off in second last place, he was three lengths behind the third last horse and at least 10 lengths behind the leader crossing the start line. That couldn’t have been the plan – he was ridden prominently when he won the Byrne Group Plate last year, and had been ridden prominently in all of his previous races this season.

The other difficulty about the positioning of the start for Great Endeavour is the fact that the first turn comes up quickly. They jump one fence then turn. It meant that, as the plan was still to be handy and make the lost ground up quickly, he had to race around the entire field as the rounded the turn past the stands and headed off down the far side. He was fully six horse-widths off the rail on the only near-180-degree turn on the track and racing freely.

It is impossible to tell exactly how much of a negative impact the entire episode had on Great Endeavour’s chance of winning the race, but it is fair to assume that it was significant, both in terms of ground lost at the start and in terms of energy expended in order to right that wrong. On top of that, and consequentially, he raced quite freely down the far side, probably much more freely than he would have done if he had kicked off handily and settled into a rhythm, which wasn’t ideal for a horse who was stepping up to three miles for the first time over fences.

Given all of that, Great Endeavour ran a hell of a race. He took it up from Rare Bob who was pulling up as they embarked on their final circuit, and his superb jumping had all his rivals on the stretch until Bensalem and Carole’s Legacy joined him going around the home turn. He looked beaten at that stage, but he still picked up in a share of the lead at the second last. He didn’t jump the fence badly, but he just crumpled on landing. It may have been the fall of a tired horse, or it may just have been one of those things, he just didn’t seem to be able to get his landing gear out. We will never know how much he would have found. Even if he was very tired, the front four were clear so he would have finished at worst fourth if he had stood up. That would have been a huge run in the circumstances and, who knows, he may have fared even better.

He remains a really interesting chaser. Winner of last year’s Byrne Group Plate as a novice and only just beaten by Poquelin in the Vote AP Gold Cup at Cheltenham’s December meeting this season, he is still only seven, he has raced just seven times over fences in his life, and he still has significant scope for progression. He is also largely unexposed over three miles over fences. He won his only point-to-point, and he finished a close-up third behind subsequent World Hurdle prospect Lie Forrit in a three-and-a-quarter-mile handicap hurdle at Cheltenham’s November meeting last season. He does run Cheltenham well, and it may be that he is at his best there, but he goes well on good ground and he will be of interest if he goes in the three-mile handicap chase at Aintree. A handicap rating of 148 could under-estimate his ability considerably. Long term, he could make up into a high class staying chaser.

15th March 2011

© The Irish Field, 26th March 2011