Horses To Follow » The Game Changer

The Game Changer

The Game Changer put up a nice performance to win the decent two-mile novices’ hurdle that opened proceedings at Punchestown on John Durkan Chase day last Sunday.

Held up towards the back of the nine-runner field by Davy Russell through the early stages of the race, the Gigginstown House horse’s jumping throughout was accurate and efficient, despite the fact that he was jumping among horses for most of the race. Still just fifth and locked away on the inside of a bunching field as they rounded the home turn, he got a nice gap as a couple of his rivals ran wide off the home turn. He moved up easily alongside Clonard Lad on the run to the final flight, and he picked up nicely from the back of the last, despite the fact that he had got in a little tight to the obstacle, to come away and win fairly readily.

This was a useful performance by the Charlie Swan-trained gelding. The form looks solid if not spectacular. Runner-up Clonard Lad had run Apache Stronghold to a short head in a maiden hurdle in October before winning his maiden hurdle in November, while the third horse, Gilgamboa, had won his maiden hurdle on his only previous racecourse appearance at Galway in late October, and the fourth horse, Ange Balafre, was three for three this season – a bumper, a maiden hurdle and a novices’ hurdle – going into the race. Also, the winning time was good, the fastest comparative time on the day, and the fastest of the three races run over hurdles by some way.

Winner of his bumper on his racecourse debut last March and brought down when still travelling well when well-fancied for the Grade 1 Land Rover Bumper at the Punchestown Festival in April, the son of Arcadio got off the mark at the first time of asking at Cork in early November. He looked set to follow up at Gowran Park in late November when he took it up on the run to the final flight after Arctic Fire had clipped heels and come down, but he got in tight the that obstacle, and that allowed the afore-mentioned Ange Balafre, who finished fourth in Sunday’s race, come down the outside, momentum up, and go on to score.

The Game Changer’s jumping, especially through the latter stages of the race, was much more assured on Sunday, and that augurs well for the future. He does not have to improve a great deal now to earn the right to compete with the top novices in the country, and he will also be of interest if he goes down the handicap route now. The handicapper has raised him 10lb for Sunday’s win to a mark of 128, but that is a mark which he has the potential to out-perform by a fair way.

8th December 2013