Horses To Follow » Western Warhorse

Western Warhorse

Western Warhorse put up a nice performance to land a decent two-mile-three-furlong novices’ chase at Doncaster on Wednesday.

Sent to the front from flagfall by Tom Scudamore, there was an awful lot to like about the accuracy of his jumping. He was just about foot-perfect at most of his obstacles and, on the rare occasion on which he did meet one a little wrong, he was able to shorten up nicely and pop.

The field closed up behind him towards the end of the back straight, but his rider was only giving him a breather, and good jumps at the fifth last and fourth last fences saw him set up a race-winning advantage which he never looked likely to relinquish. Victor Hewgo did close him down from the final fence, but it never looked likely that he would get there, the winner was probably idling on the run-in having been out in front for so long, and he probably won with a fair bit more in hand than the neck winning margin.

This race – won by Overturn last year – may not have been as strong in the end as it looked like it was going to be, simply because the odds-on favourite Karinga Dancer – who is rated 145 over hurdles and who was a winner over course and distance on his chasing bow – may not have run his race. Harry Fry’s horse made a couple of mistakes on the way around and jumped markedly to his left on occasion. Even so, runner-up Victor Hewgo was progressive over hurdles at the end of last season and jumped well on his debut over fences, and the first two were clear. More importantly, Western Warhorse was visually impressive, he travelled easily in front and his jumping was really good. On top of that, the winning time was good, almost bang on Racing Post par.

David Pipe’s horse can build on this now. Winner of his sole point-to-point, he got off the mark over hurdles at his second attempt at Chepstow last April, and he ran a cracker on his debut this term to finish second to his lesser-fancied stable companion Home Run in a good conditional riders’ handicap hurdle at Cheltenham’s November meeting. Home Run is now rated 10lb higher than he was that day, while third-placed Sausalito Sunrise is now rated 23lb higher after winning twice.

Western Warhorse was disappointing on his only subsequent run over hurdles, but he raced very freely that day at Newbury on his first attempt at three miles. You can easily forgive him that. He looked a lot more tractable at Doncaster, perhaps because he was jumping fences instead of hurdles, and it is reasonable to expect further improvement now over the larger obstacles.

Rated 129 over hurdles, it would be surprising if he didn’t surpass that mark by a fair way over fences. He jumped a little to his left, so a left-handed track probably suits him best, and two and a half miles is probably his trip more than three. The best run of his short career by some way over hurdles was at Cheltenham, so he could be one for the two-and-a-half-mile novices’ handicap chase at the Festival, as long as his handicap mark does not creep above 140 between now and then.

8th January 2014