Horses To Follow » Stonebrook


Stonebrook ran a nice race to finish third behind two useful sorts in a Class 4 novices’ hurdle at Wetherby on Tuesday.

Held up in the early stages behind a sedate enough pace by AP McCoy, his jumping was neat and efficient, impressive for a hurdling debutant. He got underneath the second flight down the back straight a little, however, and he wasn’t overly fluent over the last on the far side, with the result that he was no better than 12th on exiting the back straight, which was not ideal given how cautious the early pace had been.

The two horses who were ahead of Stonebrook in the market, Tiqris and Secrete Stream, were much better positioned towards the head of the field, and they moved up easily on either side of the leader on the run to the third last as Stonebrook came under pressure in behind. JP McManus’ horse did respond, and good jumps at the third last and second last gave him a chance, but he was never travelling as well as the two market leaders, who quickened away from him on the run to the final flight. Even so, there was a lot to like about the manner in which Stonebrook stayed on past Tough Trade to take third place.

This is strong form for the grade. Tiqris had finished a close-up third behind subsequent Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle runner-up Josses Hill and Communicator, who was rated 98 on the flat, on his previous run, while the second and fourth horses, Secrete Stream and Tough Trade, were both novice hurdle winners going into this race. The winner and runner-up were rated 130 and 125 respectively.

Stonebrook himself carried good bumper form into the race. He had finished third behind Faugheen and Josses Hill on his racecourse debut at Punchestown last May for David Kiely, and he was two for two in bumpers for current trainer Donald McCain. He was, admittedly, over 20 lengths behind Faugheen in that Punchestown bumper, but he was only beaten a half a length by Josses Hill for the runner-up spot, and the form of the race has depth.

The Flemensfirth gelding is only six, and this was his first run over hurdles and just his fourth race ever, so it is reasonable to expect significant improvement from this. He obviously handles soft ground well, but he proved at Punchestown that he can also handle better ground. There is plenty of stamina in his pedigree, and he shaped here as if he would improve for a step up in trip, but he will be of interest wherever he goes next.

21st January 2014