Horses To Follow » Blackstairmountain


I wouldn’t go losing faith in Blackstairmountain after his fifth-place finish behind Flemenstar in the Arkle on Sunday at Leopardstown. The ground on Saturday was yielding, good in places, on the Chase course, and that would have suited well, but persistent rain overnight and through Sunday had changed the ground to soft by start of racing on Sunday, that had worsened to soft to heavy before the Arkle and deteriorated further to heavy all round after the race, and that would have been just far too soft for him. Flemenstar is a top class chaser in these conditions, even Notus De La Tour, for whom the ground had also come right, was no match for the winner, and Blackstairmountain simply never looked happy.

A 151-rated hurdler, Blackstairmountain was good enough to win the Champion Novice Hurdle at Punchestown in 2010, when he had Flat Out and Loosen My Load behind him, and he got to within a length and a half of Voler La Vedette at Fairyhouse last season, when he looked home for all money after taking it up over the final flight, both of those runs coming on his favoured sound surface.

He made a pleasing chase debut at Clonmel at the start of December, and followed that up by winning the Racing Post Novice Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas. The ground was officially yielding to soft that day, but was probably riding slightly better than that, and he showed a likeable attitude to wear down Notus De La Tour after the last and draw away late on. He often looked like a weak finished over hurdles – remarkably, he has traded at 1.01 three times before getting beaten – but that issue seems to be behind him now over fences and after undergoing a wind operation. On top of that, he wore a tongue-tie on his first two runs over fences, but that piece of equipment was absent on Sunday. You can easily ignore this run.

It may be that he doesn’t quite have the pace to win an Arkle at Cheltenham, but he did run well enough at the Festival last season when seventh, beaten only four lengths, behind stable companion Final Approach in the County Hurdle. Bookmakers may have over-reacted in pushing him out from 14/1 to as big as 25/1 for the Arkle. He would also be of interest if Willie Mullins allowed him take his chance in the Grand Annual, if the UK mark that he was awarded was close to his Irish mark of 146. He will be of interest whenever he runs next on goodish ground.

29th January 2012