Horses To Follow » Monbeg Dude

Monbeg Dude

Monbeg Dude put up a really good performance to win the three-and-a-quarter-mile handicap chase at Cheltenham last Friday. He always travelled well through the race for Tom Scudamore, his jumping as assured as it has ever been. He travelled nicely down the hill behind Amigayle and Theatre Guide, moved up on the outside to join the strongly-travelling Theatre Guide at the second last as the pair of them moved on from the mare, jumped to the front over the last and kept on well up the hill to win by just over a length.

This is strong form. The worry about Theatre Guide was whether or not the race would come too quickly for him after he had run his lungs out to finish third in the Hennessy just two weeks previously but, given how well he ran, it is reasonable to assume that he ran his race. Monbeg Dude only beat him by a length and a quarter, but he is a horse who only just does enough – he has gained his three previous wins under Rules by, respectively, a head, a neck and a half-length – it is reasonable to assume that, given how the race panned out, he was value for a fair bit more than that, and the pair of them finished 16 lengths clear of the third horse.

Monbeg Dude continues to add more facets to his game. Always thought to be at his best on soft ground, he proved here that he could operate on good ground as well. Indeed, this was probably a career-best from him. Also, he proved here that he didn’t have to be dropped right out the back, that he could race close to the pace, and that he didn’t have to have his head dropped on the winning line. He hit the front on landing over the last, and he had every opportunity to allow Theatre Guide back into the race on the long uphill run to the winning line.

It is as interesting as it is surprising that Michael Scudamore decided to swerve the Welsh National with Monbeg Dude – a race that he won last year – and aim him instead at the Aintree National. He would probably be favourite now for the Chepstow race, and you would never have thought that he was made for the Aintree fences. That said, he seems to be on really good terms with himself now, and he seems to be progressing, so you never know.

The handicapper has raised him 8lb to a mark of 146, which should see him get into the National no problem. However, he will also be of interest wherever he goes next, especially after the National weights have been cast in stone in February. He has been generally an under-appreciated horse in the past – he was returned at odds of 14/1, 25/1 and 10/1 for his three previous wins – and he may continue to be at least a little under-rated.

13th December 2103