Horses To Follow » Toubab


Toubab opened up a big advantage over his field as he came down the hill in a two-mile novice chase at Cheltenham on Saturday and he looked to have the race won, trading as short as 1.04 in-running. He had raced too keenly through the early stages though, and had made a couple of small mistakes early on, jinking on landing slightly over the third and then jumping into the back of Health Is Wealth as that one jumped across him at the fourth, and it just told in the end.

He had been restrained in fifth place early but he was free and, having jumped the first fence down the back straight really well, Ruby Walsh allowed him to move closer approaching the next, the water jump. He jumped fluently over the next few fences, having moved upsides the leader Lancetto, before moving on coming to the open ditch at the top of the hill, which he cleared impressively. He travelled strongly down the hill, jumped the third-last nimbly with an eight-length lead, and moved into the home straight to face the hill still with a comfortable advantage. He just brushed through the second last fence though before getting in too tight and hitting the last, which opened the door for Lancetto, who had been outpaced but who kept at it, as Toubab’s early exertions took their toll. Still, Toubab didn’t fold tamely up the hill, he battled on and made Lancetto really fight for it, Evan Williams’s horse only getting in front in the last 20 yards, and the pair of them pulling nicely clear of the former Triumph Hurdle winner and Champion Hurdle third Zaynar, who was supported pre-race, in a good time.

Toubab was well backed himself, 2/1 into 5/4 on course, and he jumped well for a fencing debutant on his seasonal debut – the winner had had the benefit of a run this season and of a race over fences. Paul Nicholls’s horse should improve a lot when he learns to settle better (the small field here wouldn’t have helped in that regard), this was his first run since February and it is understandable that he was fresh. He was a second season novice hurdler last season and won a listed novice hurdle at Haydock well on his seasonal debut, before not quite going on as it looked like he might, not finding a great deal for pressure in either the Tolworth Hurdle or the Dovecote Hurdle. Those were both good races though, won by the very useful pair Minella Class and Sire De Grugy respectively, and the ground would not have been in his favour for either of them, particularly the former where it was heavy, as he is described by Nicholls as essentially a good-ground performer.

He is an interesting recruit to chasing, he seems to be a natural jumper, and if he does learn to settle he could be a very good novice this season. It would not be a surprise to see him go well in something like the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown or the Kingmaker Novices’ Chase at Warwick before potentially targetting some of the good novice chases in the spring, although there is of course the possibility that Nicholls gets another run or two into him soon whilst the ground is good before giving him a break through the depths of winter.

15th October 2011