Horses To Follow » Bradley


It was just a small field for the Ian Williams Racing Handicap Chase at Cheltenham last Thursday, and the fact that they went no pace at all really wouldn’t have suited Bradley, so he emerges with great credit for just going down to the potentially really well handicapped Ashkazar.

The three-mile-one-furlong trip would have been short enough for Fergal O’Brien’s horse, especially given the very steady pace. Paddy Brennan had him wide for the first circuit and a half before he decided to press on down the back straight on the second circuit. Given Bradley’s undoubted stamina, Brennan really had little choice but to take it up when he did and try to draw the stamina out of his rivals, but in reality the damage to his chance had been done with the slow gallop through the first circuit, as Ashkazar was able to cruise into the race right up until the final fence when Timmy Murphy pulled him out to challenge, flew the last, and had too much pace for Bradley up the run-in.

The fact that they went steady suited Ashkazar far more than Bradley; not only did it take the pressure off his jumping and enable him get into a nice rhythm (this was just his third run over fences and his first for nearly two and a half years), but, as a horse with more pace than Bradley, it meant that he could use his speed late on. It probably also counted against Bradley that Timmy Murphy had ridden the horse on his previous run at Haydock, as Murphy knew he didn’t want to get into a battle with him from a long way out here, and he was able to deliver Ashkazar late, giving Bradley very little time to respond after the final fence. Ashkazar was running off a mark that was 15lb below his current hurdles rating, and 24lb below his peak hurdles rating, which he achieved when winning at the track on New Year’s Day 2011. The front pair came clear of the only other finisher Insider Dealer.

Bradley had seemed much better suited to the slightly longer trip and stronger pace at Haydock on his previous run in the Tim Molony Handicap Chase at Haydock, he travelled well throughout that day, he took it up plenty early enough after the third last fence and probably won with a good deal in hand, seemingly idling late on.

He is eight but he is really lightly-raced, and he has lots of scope over staying trips next season now. He ran well in the Cheltenham Foxhunters’ on his run before Haydock, staying on well at the end, and marathon trips should suit him really well. He is interesting for next season – the Peter Marsh and Tommy Whittle Chase are the races that come to mind given that he handled Haydock well. He may need good ground to be at his best, but he handled the easy ground well here. If he does need decent ground then races like the Midlands and Scottish Nationals could be on his agenda.

19th April 2012