Horses To Follow » Marshal Zhukov

Marshal Zhukov

Marshal Zhukov had posted a big career best on his second run over fences, his first in a handicap, when winning emphatically at Chepstow, and he took the eye again on his next run at Ascot last Friday.

Weak on the exchanges just prior to the off, he was restrained right at the rear, but he travelled strongly and jumped well in the main, often making lengths at his fences before being restrained again. He did make one mistake, a jolting one on the run into Swinley Bottom, from which he appeared to recover easily enough, and he was soon creeping much closer up the inside. He just flicked through the top of the first fence up the side of the course, after which James Best gave the horse a squeeze to which he received an impressive response, the pair of them quickly going past the four horses in front of him and flying over the next fence to take him right onto the heels of leaders. His momentum soon took him to the front as he got up the inside of Vino Griego and he traded at 1.52 in-running but, having got there, he was pestered by the loose horse at both of the last two fences up the side of the course and around the home turn. That meant his move was not decisive, he was not able to get clear of Vino Griego, and he gave best to both Vino Griego and Ackertac coming to the penultimate fence.

Even at that, he kept on fairly well to the line to hold on comfortably for third, and he finished well enough, coming back at the front two after the last fence. He had been raised 13lb for his win at Chepstow (10lb initially and then an extra 3lb when the second and third went on to fight out the finish of a similar race at Wincanton next time, the pair of them clear), but this run suggests that he is well up to this mark of 130. A combination of the soft ground, his blunder coming into Swinley Bottom and his big move up the side of the course all just told in the end, but he remains interesting off this mark.

He wears a tongue-tie, so maybe good to soft rather than genuinely soft, testing ground like it was here will help him. Given the way he can jump and the speed he showed here, he may be even more effective at two miles than he is at two and a half, and he could be best in a better class race in which they go a stronger pace.

23rd November 2012