Horses To Follow » Arctic Fire

Arctic Fire

Arctic Fire shaped like a highly-talented individual in finishing third behind The Tullow Tank and Renneti in the Grade 1 Royal Bond Hurdle at Fairyhouse on Sunday.

The third string of the Willie Mullins triumvirate based on the market and on jockey bookings, the Soldier Hollow gelding was settled nicely out the back of the field through the early stages of the race by David Casey. Last or second last from flagfall, which was not ideal behind a sedate enough pace, he got closer to the leaders without improving his position as the field concertinaed up just before the home turn. He got a lovely run through on the inside as they rounded the bend, but he ran into a little bit of traffic on the far side after they jumped the second last. He did pick up, however, to move into a clear fourth as they approached the final flight, but he was still a full five lengths off the pace, and that was just too wide a gap to bridge on the short run-in against high-class opposition. Even so, he finished really well to reduce the margin to a length and a half at the line.

Winner of a flat race in the French provinces in October last year, Arctic Fire was impressive in winning his maiden hurdle at Tipperary in October this year on his first run for Willie Mullins, despite being weak in the market beforehand. He was unfortunate to clip heels and come down after jumping the second last flight at Gowran Park on his second run, when he was travelling well. It looked like a hard fall at the time, so it was great that he was able to get up and put in a performance that was as good as Sunday’s performance just a week later.

It is difficult to tell how good Arctic Fire could be. Sunday’s race was a really good race with strength in-depth. The winner, The Tullow Tank, is a second-season novice who looked impressive in beating the talented Turnandgo at Naas on his previous run, while the second, Renneti, had been impressive in winning his maiden hurdle at Downpatrick at long odds-on on his only previous run over hurdles, and had the run of the race up front. Also, those two horses raced handily, Renneti led and The Tullow Tank was always just behind the pace. The front three finished clear, and they had some really useful rivals behind them, including Minella Foru, Gilt Shadow, Very Wood and Arctic Fire’s well-backed stable companion Alonso. It was a deep race.

Arctic Fire has worn a hood now in both of his races for Mullins, and he seems to like being settled out the back, he is a keen-going sort. As such, he might be at his best now in handicap company, when the combination of a big field and a fast pace could bring out the best in him. His new handicap rating of 138, just 3lb higher than the rating he carried into Sunday’s race, could under-rate his ability considerably.

1st December 2013