Horses To Follow » Folsom Blue

Folsom Blue

The Conor O’Dwyer-trained Folsom Blue put up a nice performance to win the Grand National Trial at Punchestown on Sunday.

Quickly settled into a nice rhythm for Bryan Cooper, the Gigginstown House horse jumped well throughout, and he was the only horse still on the bridle on the run between the third last and second last fences. It looked as though long-time leader Sole Witness got away from him a little on the run to the home turn, but he made up the ground easily with just a squeeze from his rider, took it up on the run to the final fence, jumped that obstacle adequately, ears pricked, and stayed on nicely to record an impressive victory, three and a half lengths clear of Sole Witness, with Are Ya Right Chief – who also ran a nice race from 5lb out of the handicap – a further two lengths back in third.

A good staying novice hurdler two seasons ago, Folsom Blue was off the track for 12 months between the Christmas Hurdle in 2012 and his return in Sizing Gold’s beginners’ chase at Navan in December this season. Third behind Civena and subsequent Leopardstown Chase favourite Talbot Road over an inadequate two and a half miles at Fairyhouse on New Year’s Day, this was his first attempt at a distance in excess of three miles, and he appeared to relish the test of stamina that this contest presented.

The handicapper has raised him 7lb for this, which appears to be surprisingly lenient. That brings him up to a mark of 134, which is still 6lb lower than his current hurdles mark of 140, which, in turn, is actually 3lb lower than his peak over hurdles. His jumping over fences is improving with racing, and there is every chance that he will be a better staying chaser than he was a staying hurdler. He is only seven and this was just his fourth chase, so he still has bundles of scope for progression over fences.

Soft ground does appear to be important to him, mind you, so future plans may be determined by underfoot conditions. However, for now the Eider Chase or the Midlands Grand National or the Irish National would all be interesting projects on soft ground. Interestingly, Portrait King, who ran well to finish fourth in Sunday’s race, won this race two years ago before going on to win the Eider Chase off an 18lb higher mark.

2nd February 2014