Horses To Follow » Gilgamboa


You won’t win any prizes for originality, putting up the winner of the Boylesports Hurdle as a horse to follow, but there were so many positives to be taken from Gilgamboa’s victory at Leopardstown on Saturday that it is difficult to leave him out.

His progress through the race was smooth. He travelled well just behind the leaders from the top of the back straight, his jumping was good, he moved up nicely around the home turn, and he found plenty on the run-in, despite landing a little flat-footed over the last, to get the better of Flaxen Flare, who appeared to be travelling more easily on the run to the final flight.

This is rock solid form. Runner-up Flaxen Flare is a top class handicap hurdler who still appears to be progressing. He won the Fred Winter Hurdle at last year’s Cheltenham Festival, and since then he has finished second in the Galway Hurdle, fourth in the Greatwood Hurdle and second in the Ladbroke Hurdle. That is really strong handicap hurdle form.

Third-placed Quick Jack was the high-profile horse of the race. He had danced in in a handicap hurdle at Cheltenham’s November meeting that has worked out well, he is rated 23lb higher in Britain than the mark off which he raced on Saturday, and he was backed down from an opening ante post price of 8/1 to 7/4 favourite. The front three finished 11 lengths clear of the useful Sea Light – a dual winner at the Leopardstown Christmas Festival – in fourth, and the time was really good, by far the fastest time of the day and the only one that dipped below Racing Post par.

As well as all that, Gilgamboa has tons of scope for progression. JP McManus’ horse had raced just three times in his life before Saturday, and he had progressed with each one. Trainer Enda Bolger said that the Westerner gelding would not be seen to best effect until he went chasing, but there could be a fair bit left to achieve now as a hurdler in the interim. The handicapper has raised him 12lb to a mark of 140, but that mark could still under-estimate his ability by a fair way. He is in the Betfair Hurdle on 8th February, and he would be of major interest if he took his chance in that, given that he would race under a penalty and not off a new British mark. His starting position in Britain is 135, 7lb higher than he was in Ireland before Saturday, but there could be another big handicap hurdle in him in the short term. Longer term, there is no telling how good he could be. He is exciting.

25th January 2014