Horses To Follow » Portrait King

Portrait King

Portrait King was recording his first win under Rules when landing the Dobbins and Madigans National Trial Handicap Chase over three and a half miles at Punchestown on Sunday, but the manner in which he stayed on suggests he could be a horse to follow now. He was always prominent, and though he was a little out to his left at some of his fences, he arrived there traveling strongly at the third last, and he had plenty in hand to hold off the completely unexposed-over-fences Up The Beat, who was admittedly carrying a big weight, with several lengths back to the hat-trick-seeking, highly progressive In Great Form in third. The time was good, 1.01 secs/furlong slower than standard, the second fastest comparative time of the day, second only to Sizing Europe who went flat out to win the Tied Cottage Chase.

This is a race that has been won by Hedgehunter and Chelsea Harbour in the recent past, and Portrait King could progress along similar lines. He is only seven, this was just his fifth run over fences, just his second at beyond two and a half miles, and he has shown much improved form now on his last two runs since being upped to staying trips. He put in a much-improved performance when second on his previous run in the Porterstown at Fairyhouse in early December, fending off challengers from the front but just failing to hold off Smoking Aces, who travelled really strongly into the race. He was just 1lb better off with Smoking Aces here for a length beating at Fairyhouse, Smoking Aces having disappointed a little in the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown in the meantime, but Maurice Phelan’s grey was able to comprehensively turn the form around. He is a fluent jumper of fences, he did get in tight to both the third last and second last, but he was still going so strongly that it didn’t make a difference.

The Eider Chase is his target now apparently, and that makes a lot of sense. The step up to four miles may bring about even further improvement, and the heavy ground that they often get in the Eider will be in his favour, given how much he has appeared to relish a testing surface on both of his last two runs. He has been raised just 7lb to a mark of 120 by the Irish handicapper, which looks far from overly punitive, he won with some authority, and that could make him a player in the Eider. Hailing from a small Irish yard, he may well be under-rated when he goes across to Newcastle. He is very much a staying chaser on the up.

5th February 2012