Horses To Follow » Saint Roque

Saint Roque

The two-mile-five-furlong conditional jockeys’ handicap hurdle run on the Friday of Cheltenham’s Open meeting is always fiendishly competitive and it normally takes a very well-handicapped horse to win it. The winner of this year’s race, Buck Magic, is undoubtedly progressive, he probably won the race with a bit left in the tank, but it is one or two of the horses in behind who are of more interest with regards the future, particularly Saint Roque who was travelling like a winner when he was brought down at the second last by the fatal fall of Ambrose Princess right in front of him.

Well backed into favouritism, Harry Derham settled Saint Roque in the middle of the field, and he jumped accurately in amongst horses. He crept closer over the flight at the top of the hill, and was travelling strongly as they set off down the hill, just caught up on the inside for a fraction behind the eventual winner who was just being niggled along at that stage. Derham switched him towards the outside coming down the hill and he cruised into contention. He had closed right up onto the heels of the leaders, still on the bridle, when he just couldn’t avoid the stricken Ambrose Princess who had taken a horrible fall in front of him over the third last. He had actually nodded on landing over the flight himself which meant that by the time he got his head up he had no chance to avoid the mare. Obviously it was too far out to be confident about where he would have finished, but he was going at least as well as anything at the time.

An easy winner of a point-to-point at Dromahane in March 2011, he didn’t appear to be finishing off his races last season in three runs in novice company, but he had a breathing operation in the summer. He departed before his breathing was really called into question here, but he was moving strongly at the time and if the operation has worked then a rating of 118 would look very lenient based on how well he was travelling here. As long as his confidence has not been affected by this fall (he also fell once last season) then he is a horse to keep on side for now.

16th November 2012