Horses To Follow » First Lieutenant

First Lieutenant

Not hugely original, but First Lieutenant put up a nice performance to win a Grade 3 novice chase over two and a half miles at Cork on Sunday. He jumped more than adequately and he won well in a messy enough race.

Davy Russell settled the Gigginstown House horse in third of the five runners, behind the pace-setting Stephanie Kate and James Morrissey’s De Valira, who had narrowly got the better of First Lieutenant on their previous run here at Cork, when the fall of Stephanie Kate at the third last had left Mouse Morris’s gelding in front probably sooner than ideal.

Last year’s Neptune Novices’ Hurdle winner travelled well here in the hands of Russell off a steady pace, and, while he got in a little tight to several fences, he never looked like falling and should have learned again from this experience. In fact, his jumping was much better from five from home, and, with just a brief squeeze from Russell at the top of the home straight, he picked up and produced a good leap at the first in the home straight, the third from home, to move alongside Stephanie Kate. Russell sat still on him on the run to the second last fence, letting the horse find a stride at it, while all the other jockeys were hard at work, before asking First Lieutenant to go and win his race having cleared it. He picked up on the short run down to the last before running down the fence a little, moving away to his right, but he had a comfortable advantage and Russell was able to take it easy enough from half way up the run-in, just punching the horse out hands and heels as Stephanie Kate kept on well on the near side. The winning margin was only three quarters of a length but the result was never really in doubt, and the runner-up drew a little way clear of the third, the field having been closely bunched on the run to the final fence.

Given that he is by Presenting, First Lieutenant should be better on better ground, and he should improve for stepping up in trip, he needed every yard of the two miles and five furlongs to win at Cheltenham last year. His jumping should improve for better ground as well as a stronger pace, they didn’t go much of a gallop here, hence the rather messy finish. His ability to act at Cheltenham, and at the Festival in particular, is obviously a big plus for his RSA Chase chances, and it looks like Mouse Morris is getting plenty of experience into him now – this was his third chase this season – before perhaps giving him a break after Christmas and training him for Cheltenham, as he did with War Of Attrition (who didn’t run between the Lexus Chase at Christmas and Cheltenham) before the 2006 Gold Cup. First Lieutenant has huge scope over a fence and is a leading RSA Chase player.

6th November 2011