Horses To Follow » Harry Topper

Harry Topper

Harry Topper may not have been afforded the credit that he was due for the performance that he put up in winning the Denman Chase at Newbury on Saturday. It is true that he had everything in his favour, three miles on a flat track on really testing ground. As well as that, the first two fences in the home straight on both circuits were omitted because of the ground, so they only just 14 fences instead of the usual 18 over three miles at Newbury, and that further enhanced Harry Topper’s chance, given that his jumping has never been his primary asset.

Visually, this was a real grinding performance. Jason Maguire had to get fairly serious with Kim Bailey’s horse as they set off on the final circuit, but he was soon back into a nice rhythm down the back straight. Significantly, his jumping was better than it had ever been before. Perhaps that is down to natural improvement with experience and schooling – this was his ninth chase after all – or perhaps it is down to the fact that he was racing on a flat galloping track on heavy ground. Either way, these conditions on a galloping track obviously suit him well.

He hit the front at the top of the home straight and galloped on resolutely all the way to the line, jumping the final two fences well and leaving high-class horses Al Ferof and Katenko in his wake. It was a visually impressive performance, and the time was really good, even allowing for the fact that they omitted four fences. It was the fastest time by far on the day, it was 0.23secs/furlong faster than Racing Post par, and it was a staggering 18 seconds faster than the time that the high-class novice Smad Place clocked in beating Sam Winner in the novices’ event run over the same course and distance two hours later.

Harry Topper may never be a fashionable horse, people may always have him down as a dodgy jumper, and the fact that he often has to be ridden along early in his races is never going to help him win a popularity contest. However, he is a high-class horse when he has his conditions, and the fact that he may often be under-rated makes him a horse who is generally of interest from a betting perspective.

Soft or heavy ground is the key to him and, while a flat galloping track seems to suit him best, he did run well overall to finish third – almost second – to The Giant Bolster in the Argento Chase last month on his only run at Cheltenham to date. As such, he would be of interest at a big price if it did happen to come up soft or heavy in the Gold Cup. He will always be worth a second look at least on soft or heavy ground.

8th February 2014