Horses To Follow » Hector’s Choice

Hector’s Choice

After winning at Aintree in October and then being placed on his next three starts in high-quality handicaps, Hector’s Choice had gone up 16lb in the handicap prior to running in Saturday’s Racing Plus Chase at Kempton. He put in another cracking effort there to finish second to Nacarat. The winner is a standing dish in the race, he was winning it for a second time, he has also been second and third in the race, and he was running off a lower mark on Saturday than he had been when placed in the race for the last two seasons, so this was another high class effort from the admirably consistent Hector’s Choice.

Richard Lee’s gelding improved for the step up to three miles, as it looked like he would do beforehand, he had just been caught a little tapped for toe before running on strongly in each of his previous three runs over two and a half miles. He traded at 1.1 when he took it up from Nacarat at the top of the home straight but, even without the mistake he made at the third last, he may still not have won. Nacarat was clearly primed to run his heart out once again, and although Hector’s Choice was ultimately beaten 11 lengths, they were the only two horses in the race from the fourth last fence. The six lengths back to the staying on Planet Of Sound in third does not do justice to Hector’s Choice’s superiority over the rest of the field – the fact that there was a further nine lengths back to the fourth horse gives a more realistic indicator as to how dominant the front two were.

Significantly, Hector’s Choice came home with an over-reach, which may have happened when he stood off the first fence, it may have been ailing him through the race and, sure enough, it did take him a while to settle into a rhythm after that. This was another career-best though, as indeed each of his last five runs have been, and he may be even better than this given that he was probably feeling his injury through the race, and he probably would have finished even closer had he not gone for home at the top of the home straight and made that mistake at the third last.

He has now qualified for the Grand National having been placed over three miles here, but that may be a project for next year, he is still only eight, he has run just eight times over fences, and he should be a stronger horse again next year. Given the over-reach he suffered here, he may well be forced to miss Cheltenham now, which is a shame as he is proven on the undulations of the track and would have a big chance in the JLT Specialty Handicap Chase. He has plenty of options at the other spring festivals though, with the three-mile-one-furlong handicap chase at Aintree on Grand National day, the race won last year by Prince De Beauchene, this year’s current Grand National favourite, looking an attractive option at this stage, especially as he has already won at Aintree this season. He has more to offer at three miles.

25th February 2012