Horses To Follow » First Lieutenant

First Lieutenant

First Lieutenant really stepped up on his reappearance run at Gowran to run a cracker in the Champion Chase at Down Royal on Saturday. He was going right-handed on soft ground on Saturday, but he is a horse who is probably at his best going left-handed on good ground, so it was an admirable effort by him to go down by just a length to Kauto Stone, who seems to be at his best in the first part of the season.

Mouse Morris’s gelding was nicely backed on course, even though Gigginstown House also had the strong favourite, last year’s winner Quito De La Roque, in the race, the choice of Davy Russell. Bryan Cooper came in for the ride on First Lieutenant, who was wearing cheekpieces for the first time, and he immediately took him to the front. He jumped well in the lead, he was joined by Quite De La Roque early on the second circuit, but he stayed just ahead, jumping well, and had the favourite in trouble after the third last. Realt Dubh and Kauto Stone moved up either side of the Gigginstown pair between the third last and the second last, both of them yet to be asked for their efforts, but despite colliding with Realt Dubh over the second last, an incident that seemed to end Noel Meade’s horse’s chance, First Lieutenant stuck on pluckily to see off Quito De La Roque and only go down by a length to Kauto Stone.

First Lieutenant could well make the step up from top novice to top chaser this term, and he will be interesting the next time he goes left-handed on good ground. He could be a Gold Cup horse, but they went a slow pace here, the final time was not good, and he was out-stayed by Bobs Worth in the RSA Chase last March after travelling best of all to the home turn, so it may be that the Ryanair Chase will be the race for him at Cheltenham this year. He does jump and travel really well, and he could be a potent force back over two and a half miles. Remember he had the class to beat last year’s Champion Hurdle winner Rock On Ruby over two miles and five furlongs in the Neptune Hurdle in 2011. It was also interesting that he ran in the two-mile Grade 1 novices’ chase at Punchestown last April having run in the RSA Chase, which suggests connections may be not be fully convinced that he is a genuine three-miler.

3rd November 2012