Horses To Follow » Shadow Catcher

Shadow Catcher

Shadow Catcher travelled best of all through the Grade 1 Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown on Sunday, he jumped quickly, he was still firmly on the bridle on the run to the second last, and he moved up on the outside over that flight to join the two leaders, but he rather crashed his way through it. He was still going well on the turn into the straight, he moved into a two-length lead on the run to the final flight and he looked to be in full control, but he got in really tight to the last and was claimed by Hisaabaat soon after landing. Dermot Weld’s horse moved a couple of lengths ahead, but Shadow Catcher was coming back at the winner going to the line, drawing away again from the consistent Countrywide Flame in third, with a bigger break back to the well-supported Asaid in fourth.

The time was really good for juveniles, the fastest comparative time of the day on a card featuring 3 other Grade 1s, and six seconds faster than the time that the handicappers clocked later on. This was just Shadow Catcher’s second run over hurdles since arriving at Gordon Elliott’s from Michael Dods’s yard, he won nicely at Punchestown in heavy ground on his debut, when he jumped well for a debutant, and the second and third have both won since. He has been highly regarded by Gordon Elliott since he got him.

The Haafhd gelding looks like a horse who will benefit from being held onto for longer in a more strongly-run race, he took it up plenty early enough here. As such, the Triumph Hurdle should be right up his street, and he is the one to take out of this race for the Triumph for me.

Unaccompanied won this race last year before going on to finish second in the Triumph, Mourad was third in 2009 and filled the same place at Cheltenham, while Won In The Dark was beaten a short head in this race in 2008 and was third in the Triumph. The best horse does not necessarily win this race, and that could well have been the case again this year.

A line through Countrywide Flame and Hollow Tree gives Shadow Catcher plenty to find with Pearl Swan and Grumeti, but the ground was suitably heavy for Hollow Tree when he beat Countrywide Flame at Chepstow, it was much better at Cheltenham when he got outpaced by Pearl Swan and Grumeti, so that collateral line of form may be a little misleading. The Spring Hurdle is usually the best Irish Triumph Hurdle pointer, and Shadow Catcher looks over-priced for the Cheltenham race now at 20/1.

12th February 2012