Horses To Follow » Menorah


Having won the 2010 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and been a high-class – if just a little shy of top class – two-mile hurdler last season, Menorah was obviously an exciting horse to go novice chasing this season. He put in an impressive round of jumping on his debut at Exeter until unseating Richard Johnson at the second last fence, and that seemed to affect his jumping on his next few starts.

It didn’t appear to be a confidence problem with Menorah’s jumping, in fact he was too enthusiastic if anything. He made mistakes when winning at Taunton and Kempton before coming to grief early on at Doncaster in the race won by Kid Cassidy.

The horse had reportedly been schooling well in his build up to the Arkle Chase, at home as well as in a racecourse school at Exeter, and he certainly jumped much better through the first half of the Arkle than he had done on his previous three runs. He made a move down the hill to chase Sprinter Sacre, briefly moving into second ahead of Cue Card, but he couldn’t land a blow on the winner and his jumping wasn’t so fluent up the home straight when it was really put under pressure, though he did manage to hold off Al Ferof for third.

Philip Hobbs’s horse finally looks like fulfilling his potential over fences now though after he ran out an impressive winner of the Grade 2 Manifesto Novices’ Chase at Aintree last week. His jumping improved a notch again from Cheltenham, though he did still make mistakes in the back straight. The step up to two and a half miles suited him well, and he could easily get three miles and possibly even further on this evidence. He could well be an exciting staying chaser for next season where the King George, and possibly even the Gold Cup have to come into consideration now.

Interestingly, several Gold Cup winners of recent years have been largely kept to two miles in their hurdle and novice chase days and have run well in one or either of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle or the Arkle – Kicking King was second in both, War Of Attrition was beaten just a neck by Brave Inca in the Supreme before being sent off favourite for the Arkle the following year, while Best Mate was narrowly beaten in the Supreme and was favourite for the Arkle the following year until Foot and Mouth caused Cheltenham to be abandoned. Menorah is slightly different in that not only did he have the class to win the Supreme, but he stayed over hurdles for an extra year. That may have been one of the reasons why it has taken a while to sort out his jumping this season over fences, but that should continue to improve into next year, and he is interesting for the top staying races next season now. In the interim, he will be interesting if he shows up at Punchestown, although, strangely, he may be vulnerable if he runs in the two-mile championship race, in which he will probably be sent off at short odds.

12th April 2012