Horses To Follow » French Hollow

French Hollow

French Hollow’s effort in finishing fourth in the Northumberland Plate at Newcastle on Saturday was probably a fair bit better than the bare form of the race suggests, given that he was the only horse to get into the race from off the pace.

French Hollow is a hold-up horse and Neil Farley immediately restrained him from stall 14, not a good draw over two miles at Newcastle where the first bend comes up quickly. He travelled well in rear, perhaps even a little too keenly off what was, not surprisingly in the conditions, only a steady pace. He almost ran into the back of Halla San as they neared the half-way point, that just lit him up a little, his rider had to take him a little wider to try to settle him, but he still remained a little freer than ideal all the way to the final half-mile, even taking a tug rounding the home turn.

He just met a little trouble at the top of the home straight as he began his challenge, he was a long way behind the front few, still only eighth and some way adrift of the front five as they passed the two-furlong marker, yet he closed in all the way to the line to finish fourth, getting to within three lengths of Ile De Re at the finish. The first three had raced handily throughout, the winner had gone to the front over half a mile from home, and the fifth and sixth horses were never too far back and had moved into a position from which they could challenge around the home turn. Nothing else from the back was able to get close. Given that he had raced exuberantly and that he was racing from 2lb out of the handicap, this was a very good run from French Hollow, and one which may just have been missed a little with the focus on the well-backed winner.

Tim Fitzgerald’s gelding is seven, he is not obviously progressive, but he looks to be better than ever this season. He ran a cracker over two miles and two furlongs at Pontefract on his previous run, his seasonal debut, also on soft ground, and that may be the key to him now. He had done very little racing on easy surfaces prior to this season, but his latest two runs have been the best two of his life according to Racing Post Ratings. That is not to say that he doesn’t handle faster ground, he rattled up a hat-trick on quick ground last summer, but soft ground just seems to bring his stamina into play. He could well develop into a Cesarewitch candidate come the autumn, although he will probably need to go up a few pounds in the handicap before then to guarantee getting in. The handicapper has raised him just the 2lb by which he was ‘wrong’ here, which is more than fair, and he is worth noting in any race in which stamina is at a premium. The Goodwood Stakes, run over two miles and five furlongs at Glorious Goodwood, could be the race for him now.

30th June 2012