Horses To Follow » City Slicker

City Slicker

City Slicker put his previous disappointing run in the Ladbroke Hurdle at Ascot behind him when he ran out a good winner of the two-and-a-half-mile hurdle that concluded proceedings at Punchestown on Saturday.

One of the likeable aspects of this performance from JP McManus’ horse was that he was held up towards the rear of the field in the early stages. He had raced prominently when he won his maiden hurdle at Punchestown last May, and he made all when he won again at the Morgiana Hurdle meeting in November, so this demonstrated another dimension to his capabilities.

He was fairly keen, mind you, and his jumping was so good that Paul Townend had to restrain him on a couple of occasions to prevent him from getting involved on the sharp end. He was assisted in this by the fact that Whodoyouthink set a decent pace. If there hadn’t been a good pace on, it is probable that City Slicker would have found himself in front a long way out.

As it was, he eased his way into a share of the lead on the inside over the third last flight. He and Un Beau Matin came clear from the second last but, whereas Bryan Cooper was flat to the boards on the outside on the favourite around the home turn, Townend was motionless on the Willie Mullins-trained horse. He moved easily to the front on the run to the final flight and, despite clipping the top of that obstacle and landing a little flat-footed, he kept on well to keep his talented rival at bay, coming away a little inside the final 50 yards.

The son of King’s Theatre continues on a steep upward curve. You have to forgive him his run at Ascot last time, but you easily can, in a big-field handicap on unusually attritional ground and away from home for the first time. The handicapper has raised him 7lb for this run to a mark of 140, but that is reasonable even from a mathematical perspective, given that he beat the solid 135-rated Un Beau Matin by three lengths, giving him 4lb. He probably won with a fair bit more in hand than the bare winning margin, and the front pair were clear.

More than that, however, as a six-year-old who has raced just seven times over hurdles, City Slicker still has bags of scope for progression. He is in the Boylesports Hurdle at Leopardstown on 25th January, but there is a suspicion that he has to go right-handed. His record going that way around reads 1101, the 0 coming in the Ladbroke at Ascot, while his record going left reads 4423. Indeed, his three wins have been at Punchestown. As such, it may be that he is more a Fairyhouse or a Punchestown horse this spring than a Cheltenham or an Aintree horse. He is exciting though, and the fact that we now know that he stays two and a half miles, and can be held up in his races, opens up lots of options.

11th January 2014