Horses To Follow » Grands Crus

Grands Crus

It was difficult not to be extremely impressed with Grands Crus’s win in the Feltham Chase at Kempton on St Stephen’s Day. His jumping has been electric from day one, he didn’t make a semblance of an error here, despite the ferocious pace Mr Moonshine and Teaforthree set through the first mile or so, and indeed in three runs over fences now Grands Crus has only made one real mistake, at the open ditch at the top of the hill at Cheltenham on his chasing bow.

He had been enthusiastic and rather lit up in both his runs over fences before this, and so the manner in which he settled here was really likeable, happy to be restrained in fifth place, although obviously helped by the fast early pace. As they turned onto their final circuit he took much closer order, flew the first couple of fences and was immediately right on the tails of the leaders, and another quick jump at the next, the first down the side of the course, took him to the front a full mile from the finish. Together with Silviniaco Cont, he soon opened up a gap on the pursuers, Bobs Worth really struggling to cope with the injection of pace, but Grands Crus’s fluent jumping soon enabled him gain firm control as they approached the last fence on the far side and began the turn for home. He forced Silviniaco Conti into a mistake three out but, despite having a five-length lead as they came down towards the second last, there was a brief moment – as Tom Scudamore got after Grands Crus as the two strong stayers in behind tried to mount serious challenges – when it looked as though Grands Crus might have to really battle to hold off his rivals, given that he had been so exuberant through the middle part of the race. Two more quick jumps ensured that he touched down over the last with that advantage intact, however, and Scudamore ultimately never had to get overly serious with him, and was able to ease him down through the last 50 yards.

The visual impression Grads Crus made here was backed up by the clock, as he recorded the fastest time of the day, going nearly three seconds faster than Kauto Star went in the King George, despite the fact that Grands Crus was eased down close home, and Kauto Star being pushed all the way by Long Run. The David Pipe-trained grey has only just turned seven, this was just his third race over fences, and he could be even better back on a left-handed track. He jumps well, he is young, he is progressive, he was a top class staying hurdler and he could be scarily good over fences now. He would be a leading Gold Cup contender if connections go down that route this season, which has to be more likely than not now, all things being equal. The Pipes have never been afraid of throwing novices into the deep end if they think they are up to it – Cyborgo and Gloria Victis both ran in the Gold Cup as novices, and Make A Stand was still a novice when he obliterated his 1997 Champion Hurdle field. Some are pointing to the fact that Gloria Victis was killed when he ran in the Gold Cup, a sad loss of a top class young horse that was very hard to take for all concerned, and how that may put David off running Grands Crus in the race this year. However, without getting into that argument again, that was just one of those things, it wasn’t the fact that he ran in the Gold Cup instead of in the RSA Chase that led to his sad demise, and, aside from the much better prize money in the Gold Cup compared to the RSA Chase, there is a chance that, having gallantly failed to beat Big Buck’s in the World Hurdle last year, Team Pipe may want to have a good crack at another Ditcheat star, Kauto Star, in the Gold Cup.

Grands Crus’s next run may well give a good indication of his likely Festival target. If he is given another run in a novice chase then it could well be that they have decided to stay down the novice route this season, but if he is pitched into the Argento Chase on Festival Trials Day at the end of January then that may well indicate that they are keen to take on the established brigade this season. If he runs in the RSA Chase then he would take an awful lot of beating, but his chance of winning a Gold Cup is better than current best odds of 9/1.

26th December 2011