Horses To Follow » Lac Fontana

Lac Fontana

Noted here before as a horse to follow after he won a handicap hurdle at Cheltenham’s January meeting, Lac Fontana is worth noting again now after he stepped up in trip and up in grade to land the Grade 1 Mersey Novices’ Hurdle over two and a half miles at Aintree on Saturday.

There was a lot to like about this performance from Paul Nicholls’ horse. Settled in mid division and up on the outside of his field by AP McCoy, his jumping was fluent and efficient throughout. He joined the front rank on the run around the home turn tracked leader Splash Of Ginge into the home straight and, despite not jumping any of the last three flights that fluently, was able to join the leader half way up the run-in before keeping on well to get home by a length and a half.

This is often a good race – it has been won in the past by Tidal Bay, Simonsig and Peddlers Cross – and this year’s renewal was probably particularly good. The form is solid, with the Betfair Hurdle winner in second and the Greatwood Hurdle winner and Betfair Hurdle runner-up in third, and the winning time was good, 0.18secs/furlong faster than Racing Post par. This was probably a career-best from Lac Fontana. His last two wins had been in handicaps, but he did run in last year’s Triumph Hurdle, and the County Hurdle that he won at Cheltenham was working out so well that he deserved his crack at this Grade 1 contest. He had always shaped as though he would benefit from a step up in trip – he was off the bridle from a long way out in the County Hurdle – and so it proved, as this was his first step beyond two miles and a furlong. His dam won over six and a half and seven furlongs, but he is by Shirocco, which is obviously where he gets his stamina.

There is every chance that he will continue to progress now as he matures further and gains in experience. He is only five, this was just his eighth run over hurdles, and he should be able to progress again, especially if he moves up again in trip. He will be of interest if he runs again this season, he is versatile in terms of ground and course configuration, and he is worth trying at three miles next season. He could emerge as a high-class staying hurdler.

5th April 2014