Horses To Follow » Vendor


Vendor did well to finish as close as he did in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury on Saturday, given that he was held up out the back in a race that was probably run to suit those who raced prominently.

There are three main pieces of evidence to support the view that prominent racers were favoured. Firstly, the winner led from flagfall and was never out of the first two. Secondly, the first six horses home all raced on the early pace or just behind it, and very few of the hold-up horses ever threatened to get involved in the finish. And thirdly, while the winning time was not slow, it was not overly fast either, just a second faster than the novices’ hurdle that Calipto won easily, which is slower than you expect from a top class 20-runner handicap hurdle. (Last year the Betfair Hurdle was over eight seconds faster than the novices’ race.)

It is reasonable to assume, therefore, that Vendor was disadvantaged by being held up out the back in the early stages, stone last of the 20 runners. He did make ground at the top of the home straight, he did move into a position from which he could challenge, as did fellow hold-up horses Smashing and Alaivan, but he could not sustain his challenge. The effort that he had to make through what was probably the hottest part of the race in order to manoeuvre himself into a challenging position inevitably took its toll, and he just kept on to finish eighth. He is better than the bare form of the race.

It is interesting that trainer Alan King suggested afterwards that Vendor could move up in trip again now, that the Coral Cup could be his Cheltenham target rather than the County Hurdle. Perhaps that is because the trainer has Montbazon – who shaped with a modicum of promise here on his first run for almost two years – in mind for the County Hurdle, but he does know what is required to win a Coral Cup, given that he saddled the first two home in the race last year. Vendor’s first three attempts at two and a half miles all ended inauspiciously, as form figures of PU0 suggest, but his latest run over the trip – at Newbury in November, his last run before Saturday – saw him win a good handicap hurdle.

A lot of his good form is on soft ground, but he finished third in the Fred Winter Hurdle on good ground at Cheltenham in 2012, so we know that he handles better ground and Cheltenham Festival conditions. His hold-up style of racing should be an advantage in a Coral Cup, and he would be an interesting contender.

8th February 2014