Horses To Follow » Toubab


The two-mile handicap chase at Ascot on Saturday was set up for a hold-up horse, with Marodima setting a decent pace out in front on the soft ground, as is his wont, and the race was indeed won by a horse ridden patiently in William’s Wishes, who was returning from a 664-day layoff. Evan Williams’s horse was nicely treated and is open to a good deal more improvement, as he was making it four wins from four starts over fences, but he hasn’t been missed by many. By contrast, Toubab’s run to finish third may have gone a little under the radar.

Despite the strong pace, Paul Nicholls’s horse just raced too freely on the testing ground on his first run of the season, and he was always likely to be susceptible to stronger finishers as a result. Marodima was pursued by Champion Court and Mad Max, with a break back to Toubab who headed the other four runners. He probably would have been much better served had he tucked in right towards the rear, as the winner William’s Wishes did. He made quite a bad mistake at the first fence on the second circuit, not getting anywhere near high enough and hitting it quite hard, and he was a little cautious at the next fence. He still hadn’t fully settled at that point, he was still straining the reins as they headed into Swinley Bottom, and he again wasn’t as fluent as he can be at the last two fences on that part of the course. He jumped up well over the second fence up the side of the course, however, to get right onto the heels of the three in front of him, and he was still apparently travelling nicely as they began the turn for home, but his exertions started to tell early in the home straight, and he came under pressure as they prepared to bypass the second last fence. He couldn’t go with the front pair form there, and he was ultimately beaten quite a long way, but he did well to hold off Mad Max for third place, having briefly looked in trouble for that position coming to the last.

This race should have knocked the freshness out of Toubab – he had raced too enthusiastically on his first run last season too and had been caught close to the line in a novice chase at Cheltenham – and there is a race like this in him. He has been dropped 1lb for this to a mark of 142, which is no harm. He does probably need better ground, and having Ruby Walsh back on board would be another positive.

24th November 2012