Horses To Follow » Champion Court

Champion Court

Champion Court took the eye with the way he was travelling for much of the Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle, the three-mile novices’ hurdle on the Friday, the race before the Gold Cup. Often they go fast in this race and it turns into a war of attrition, but they went a sensible gallop up front this year, and that wouldn’t have suited Champion Court who is a free-goer, so it was no surprise that he pulled hard early on settled right out the back. Indeed he was still pulling after they had jumped four or five flights, yet still came there and latched onto the leading group going well coming down the hill. He was awkward at the second last though as Teaforthree in front of him flattened the flight and he was always struggling to pick the front three up from then on, but he did hold off the strong and proven stayer Kilcrea Kim for fourth place up the hill.

The race was not run to suit Martin Keighley’s gelding at all given that he was held up right out the back of the field and that they did not go fast at all up front. The winner Bobs Worth and eventual third placed horse Court In Motion both moved much closer to the pace down the back straight and were in the perfect position to strike off the front at the bottom of the hill, while Champion Court had to make his ground into a quickening pace and just couldn’t get to the front three.

If he learns to settle better then Champion Court could develop into a high class horse. He is the apple of his trainer’s eye, and Keighley had been pretty bullish about his chances coming into the Festival. It may well be that he needs softer ground to show his best too – there was cut in the ground when he won a Grade 2 contest impressively at the Cheltenham November meeting, and that run suggested three miles would suit him really well. It is possible that he was slightly too fresh for this run and that was why he pulled so much early on. As long as he settles better next time, which he may well do, this run may have taken some of the freshness out of him, he will be of interest wherever he runs.

18th March 2011