Horses To Follow » Wicklow Brave

Wicklow Brave

Wicklow Brave put up a nice performance to win the listed two-mile novice hurdle at Punchestown on Sunday, beating the highly-regarded Lieutenant Colonel in a good time, and he looks like a live candidate for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle now.

Settled in fourth of the five runners by Ruby Walsh, Willie Mullins’ horse was keener than ideal through the early stages of the race, and his jumping was a little guessy. His jumping improved, however, as he warmed to his task behind an increasing pace, and he was really accurate and efficient over three of the last four flights. Still keen on the run to the third last, he moved up nicely in behind the two Gigginstown horses, Lieutenant Colonel and Real Steel on the run around the home turn, and moved easily to the front on the run to the final flight. He was a little awkward at the last, but he picked up impressively when Ruby asked him, to come away from Lieutenant Colonel, who in turn was clear of Real Steel, who had been well-backed beforehand.

This was impressive performance from a highly-progressive individual. Lieutenant Colonel had finished second to Vautour on his hurdling debut, was impressive in winning on his previous run over hurdles, and was backed into marginal favouritism here in front of Wicklow Brave. Also, the winning time was good, the fastest hurdle race on the day by some way, and over 12 seconds faster than the bumper (albeit a slowly-run bumper), in which they obviously didn’t have any hurdles to jump.

Trainer Willie Mullins appeared to be really impressed with the performance in his post-race interview, during which he expressed the opinion that the son of Beat Hollow would be even better on better ground. He should also be better off an even faster pace, which should help him to settle better. Both of those factors should facilitate an improved performance in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle should that be his Cheltenham Festival target this year.

He is only five and this was just his second run over hurdles, so he could progress significantly on the back of this run anyway. He is now unbeaten in his last five races, three bumpers and two hurdle races, and he could prove to be very good indeed. Best odds of 14/1 about him for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle look big.

2nd February 2014