Horses To Follow » Saint Are

Saint Are

Saint Are, winner of the Grade 1 Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree last season, made a highly encouraging chasing debut back at Aintree on Sunday when finishing second over an inadequate two and a half miles. Tim Vaughan had described his schooling over fences as ‘electric’ in a recent stable tour, and that was evident here, he jumped really well for a chasing debutant, taking lengths out of his rivals at many of his fences. It was also notable that he was quick when he got in too close to a fence, as he did at the fence on the side of the course on both circuits. He moved well to the third last, the first in the home straight, but he was given a bump by Champion Court on landing, and then he was forced to switch over the second last as the leader edged out to his right and hit the fence. Saint Are just couldn’t quite match the highly talented Champion Court for pace over the last two fences, but this was his seasonal debut, two of his three rivals had had the benefit of a run, and Richard Johnson just held him together over the last two fences without being overly hard on him, yet he kept on really well to pull away from Astracad, who was rated as high as 140 over hurdles and who had made a winning chasing debut a month previously.

This is only the seventh running of this race, but it already has some pedigree for producing high class chasers, a lot of trainers like to run some of their best prospects in it, and it is not necessarily the best horse who wins it. Wishfull Thinking fell at the first fence last year, Little Josh was beaten in it the year before, Tidal Bay won it en route to Arkle success, and Festival winner L’Antartique was beaten in it too, while both Star De Mohaison and Albertas Run used it as part of their path to victory in the RSA Chase, the former winning it in 2005 and the latter being beaten by Tidal Bay in 2007.

Saint Are is a thorough stayer, he should come on considerably for this run, after all his Sefton win was his first win of last season on what was his fifth run, so he does take his racing well, and Tim Vaughan said afterwards that he had just missed a little bit of work early on in his preparation for this. The plan is now to step up to three miles, either at Cheltenham’s Paddy Power meeting or at Newbury’s Hennessy meeting, before a crack at the Feltham Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, and then to prepare him for the spring. He is still only five and he is lightly raced, there may still be physical improvement to come, and he has all the makings off a potential high class chaser. It is worth pointing out that all his good runs have been on flat tracks, although that may just be coincidence. Even so, it would be good to see him perform around Cheltenham prior to the Festival, if the RSA Chase is his intended target. He goes well on good ground as well as with cut in the ground, and he is exciting.

23rd October 2011