Horses To Follow » Noble Prince

Noble Prince

I wouldn’t go losing faith in Noble Prince after his latest reverse at two miles, this time in the Grade 2 Normans Grove Chase at Fairyhouse on Sunday. The ground was officially soft, heavy in places, with the times indicating that it was probably more like heavy all round, and that just wouldn’t have suited Noble Prince. He has won on heavy ground, but he is a far better horse on a sounder surface, and he never really looked completely comfortable through the race, he wasn’t jumping as well as he can, and he couldn’t pick up out of the ground as well as he had on better ground in the Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas when quickening up and looking a big threat to Big Zeb.

Paul Nolan was disappointed after the race that Noble Price couldn’t get another win under his belt here, given that he had run two fine races in defeat to the former Champion Chaser Big Zeb, who is in the form of his life this season. His horse should be a different proposition, however, when stepping back up to two miles and five furlongs in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham, back on better ground, the course and distance over which he won the Jewson Novices’ Chase at last year’s Festival. As well as that Jewson success, Noble Prince also ran well in the 2010 County Hurdle at Cheltenham when behind to Thousand Stars, and it is hard to over-emphasise the importance of proven form in Festival conditions at Cheltenham, especially when a horse has been running largely on bad ground through the winter.

Noble Prince’s two runs behind Big Zeb this season were probably even better than the credit that he has received for them, especially in the Dial-A-Bet Chase where it was only Big Zeb’s ability to quicken and land running over the last that got him out of trouble with Noble Prince looking to have stolen a march around the home turn. Nolan’s horse’s record over two and a half miles reads 121121F, the F coming in last year’s Powers Gold Cup, when he would almost certainly have won had he not fallen at the second last fence. Also, he is at his best in the spring, no doubt due to his marked preference for better ground. He has raced 10 times between November and February inclusive, during the winter, and he has never won. By contrast, his record between March and October inclusive over fences and hurdles is 12115411F1.

With Sunday’s run likely to have been his last before Cheltenham, you can be sure that Paul Nolan will be training him to the minute for the 15th March now. The fact that bookmakers pushed Noble Prince out from as short as 4/1 to a general 7/1 for the Ryanair is a huge over-reaction.

22nd January 2012