Horses To Follow » Mount Benbulben

Mount Benbulben

It probably wouldn’t pay to give up on Mount Benbulben after his defeat as favourite in the Grade 1 Navan Novice Hurdle on Sunday. Lots of things conspired against him and he was probably beaten by a very good horse in Boston Bob.

Gordon Elliott’s horse had only just managed to get past the front-running Rebel Fitz on the climb to the line after the last hurdle over the same course and distance on his previous run in the Grade 2 Monksfield Novice Hurdle, stamina looks his strong point, and with only three rivals on Sunday, none of whom looked like wanting to make the running, Paul Carberry bounced him out and made the running himself. He had never made the running before and he didn’t seem to enjoy it particularly, Carberry had to push him along for a few strides as they came to the bottom bend and passed the unsaddling enclosure, just so the horse knew he had to complete another circuit. He had jumped a little out to his right over one or two of the first few hurdles but that trait became much more pronounced on the final circuit, he was quite badly out to his right at times, and he slowed going into a couple of obstacles, which didn’t help his chance at all.

Encouragingly, his jumping was a little better over the last four hurdles, and even having given away ground at most of the flights, he still held a useful advantage as they came off the home turn and set their sights on the third last. Carberry hadn’t asked him to begin his finishing effort until they had rounded the home turn completely, and Ruby Walsh had had to nudge Boston Bob along to move up on the outside of Jetson around the turn and go after the leader. On landing over the first in the home straight, it was Walsh who became the more animated initially, he had to really shake his horse up to bridge the gap. Mount Benbulben still held a two-length lead as they moved down towards the second last, but Walsh elicited a good response from Willie Mullins’s horse, and a slick jump at the second last took him past the leader soon after the flight. He powered up the hill impressively to record a four-and-a-half-length win.

Despite setting his own pace and having Boston Bob in a bit of trouble over the third last, Mount Benbulben was done for pace halfway up the home straight. The winner picked up really nicely from the third last, and he could be a very useful horse indeed, he could well be a Cheltenham horse. Mount Benbulben could not pick up in the manner in which the winner did, but he was not all out to hold off the promising Ipsos Du Berlais for second. The time of the race was good, over a second quicker than the time that the classy Zaidpour clocked – albeit largely unextended – in winning the Grade 2 Tara Hurdle over the same trip half an hour earlier.

There is a suspicion that Gordon Elliott’s horses are not going quite as well as you would usually suspect at the moment too, so it is possible that Mount Benbulben was not totally at his best on Sunday. Sunday’s bumper winner, Don Cossack, was the trainer’s only winner from his first 26 runners in December. Mount Benbulben should be a different horse now stepped up in trip and when there is a stronger pace so he can take a lead rather than having to make his own running, and he remains a potentially top class staying novice hurdler this season.

18th December 2011