Horses To Follow » Dev


Away from Cheltenham, Dev put up a nice performance to finish second to Ponmeoath in the two-and-a-half-mile handicap chase at Cork on Sunday. Strong in the market in the morning, but weak on the track, he jumped well out in front, as is his wont, and he looked the most likely winner by far turning for home until lack of a recent run seemed to tell and he just gave best to Ponmeoath on the run-in.

This was Dev’s first run since November 2009, when he won an incident-packed Grand Sefton Chase over the big fences at Aintree. A couple of things about that performance. Excepting his point-to-point win in 2004, it was the first time that Dev had won over a distance in excess of an extended two miles, and the feeling was that he had just got home. On the contrary, in watching the race again, it is more likely that it was loneliness that caused him to wander on the run around the Elbow more than tiredness. He had been out of his own since the fifth last fence when his galloping companion up front, Frankie Figg, had taken a crashing fall, and the most notable aspect of the run-in was how Dev picked up again when Pak Jack challenged him on the far side. He did tighten the Richard Phillips horse up against the rail a little, but he stuck his neck out willingly and galloped all the way to the line once he had company. The other notable thing about that performance was the fluency with which he jumped the big fences. With the exception of a mistake at the Canal Turn, where he lost plenty of ground by going wide as well as making the mistake, he was almost foot-perfect.

The Topham Chase, run over the same course and distance as the Grand Sefton next month, is the obvious race for Liam Mulryan’s gelding now. Significantly, Sunday’s run was his first since joining Gordon Elliott, and it would not be at all surprising if his trainer and owner have had the Topham in mind for him for a little while now. A hike of 3lb is not harsh, it brings him up to a mark of 126, which is just 2lb higher than the mark off which he won the Grand Sefton. Statistically he is up against it, no horse aged 11 or older has won the race in 90 attempts since 1993, but plenty have run well in defeat in recent times (Cossack Dancer, third at 40/1 in 2009, Latimer’s Place, third at 25/1 in 2007, Hakim, second as the 13/2 favourite in 2006) and not many with Dev’s profile have tried. In fact, in the last four renewals, since Hakim was sent off as favourite for the race in 2006, no horse aged older than 11 has started at less than 20/1. The better ground should help him, and he could be a major player in the race, if indeed he does make the line-up.

20th March 2011

© The Irish Field, 26th March 2011