Past Winners » Oscara Dara


The market is starting to reflect how stiff a task Bear’s Affair faces here in the Lanzarote Hurdle, given that he has been raised 12lb for his Aintree win on his reappearance. That race hasn’t worked out well at all and 12lb looks excessive. As a result of the original strength behind the favourite, however, Nicky Henderson’s other horse, Oscara Dara, has been a little overlooked, and he is over-priced for me at 6/1.

Oscara Dara is eight now, but he has raced just six times in his life, just three times over hurdles, and he still has lots of scope for progression. His hurdles form is very good in the context of this race. He careered away to win at Sandown on his hurdling debut last March and it speaks volumes for how highly he is regarded at home that, on the back of that run, he was allowed to take his chance in the Grade 2 Top Novice Hurdle at Aintree against his more illustrious stable companions Darlan and Captain Conan.

He acquitted himself really well at Aintree, just lacking the pace of his stable companions from the top of the home straight, but sticking on well for fourth.

He built again on that when winning a novices’ hurdle at the Punchestown Festival. He travelled nicely that day, but he didn’t look a speed horse, he was really strong at the finish in the atrocious ground, coming away from his equally unexposed and well-backed stable companion Malt Master, who looked good in winning a novice chase at Huntingdon yesterday.

The form of that Punchestown race is hard to weigh up, but he beat Terminal by over 20 lengths and Terminal is a 131-rated hurdler. That suggests, at the very least, that Oscara Dara is not badly treated on a handicap mark of 140 today, and that he is actually possibly very well treated.

He was sent novice chasing this season, but he just didn’t look a natural over fences when he finished second to Cantlow at Plumpton. A big field over two miles and five furlongs at Kempton should suit him far better than a small-field novice chase over two miles at a tight track. Also, he has Barry Geraghty on board, and while that may not necessarily reflect the pecking order of the two Henderson horses – they may have been keen to keep Jerry McGrath on Bear’s Affair, claiming 5lb – it is always an advantage to have Geraghty on side. Also, it isn’t often that Geraghty doesn’t ride the Henderson number one in a race if he can do the weight.