Horses To Follow » Monksland


Monksland impressed in winning the Grade 2 Slaney Novice Hurdle at Naas on Sunday, showing a taking turn of foot to come clear on the run-in in a good time. The six runners were taken along by Mart Lane with Paul Carberry settling Monksland in a dispute of fourth place on the inside of Owega Star. The pace was not overly strong, the runners were still in a heap over the second last, but Monksland came there strongly to press the favourite Dedigout on the run between the final two flights, that one having made a mistake at the second last. Carberry sat pretty still on Monksland on the run to the last before asking him to pick up and jump the last well. He picked up well all right, he moved into a momentum-induced lead, but he met the final flight all wrong, rather ploughed through it, yet he managed to get away from the obstacle without losing much momentum and quickened clear immediately, pulling several lengths clear under just hands and heels riding from Carberry, before being eased down through the last strides and still recording a four-and-a-half-length victory.

This was a really good performance from Monksland, he was only third favourite, the unbeaten-over-hurdles Dedigout and Lyreen Legend, conqueror of the useful Jenari at Navan previously, both favoured in the market. Monksland is now unbeaten in three runs under Rules himself, he ran out at the last fence in a Ballysteen point-to-point, but since switching to the track he has won a bumper by a wide margin at Down Royal, stayed on well to win a maiden hurdle over two miles at Navan and has now won a Grade 2 novices’ hurdle over two and a half miles.

His trainer Noel Meade says that he will be even better on better ground, and as his two hurdle runs have come on officially soft to heavy ground, he could well improve quite considerably for spring ground. Meade spoke afterwards of the Neptune Hurdle at Cheltenham, a race he won with Nicanor in 2006, beating Denman, the only horse to do so in Denman’s first 14 races. His five-year-old gelding showed a lot of class here, he travelled well, he jumped well in the main, and he proved that he possessed an impressive turn of foot over this trip. There is no telling how good he could be.

The Slaney Novice Hurdle has proved a good trial in recent seasons for the Neptune Hurdle at Cheltenham – Venalmar won the race in 2008 and was beaten a neck by Fiveforthree in the Neptune, while Mikael D’Haguenet won both races the following year. Meade said that he might go straight to Cheltenham without a run now, and he may just be a little under the radar as a result. Current odds of 16/1 are fair.

8th January 2012