Horses To Follow » Puffin Billy

Puffin Billy

It was good to see Puffin Billy back on a racecourse, and he shaped with a lot of encouragement on his chasing debut at Exeter on Tuesday.

Keener than ideal through the early stages of the race, Leighton Aspell actually found himself in front over the first two fences before Dunraven Storm moved up on his outside and he was able to take a lead. Even after that, however, Puffin Billy continued to race a little exuberantly. He did travel well to the home straight, and he looked a big threat to the leader at that point, a bigger threat than ultimate runner-up Far West did, but he made a mistake at the first fence in the home straight, and he was just a tired horse after that. He only plugged on over the final three fences to finish third, well behind the winner in a race that was run in a good time.

It was understandable that Oliver Sherwood’s horse would have got tired. This was his first run since he finished fifth behind Ifandbutwhynot in the Gerry Feilden Hurdle at Newbury last November. That was his only run last season as a second-season hurdler, which was a shame, because he had been such a promising novice. He won his first two bumpers and his first two hurdle races, putting up a really impressive performance to win the second of his hurdle races, the Grade 2 Kennel Gate Hurdle at Ascot, on heavy ground. It was disappointing at the time that he was beaten by Melodic Rendezvous at Exeter subsequently, and he could finish only fifth behind Champagne Fever in the 2013 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, but he was up to competing in that company as a novice, and a mistake at the second last flight in the Supreme Novices’ effectively ended his chance in that.

For all that he achieved over hurdles, however, he was built to jump fences. He jumped well in the main on Tuesday, but he should get even better as he gains in experience. He is a big long-striding horse who has lots of scope over a fence. This is his game.

Easy ground is also probably his game. All his good performances over hurdles were on easy ground, and conditions – good to soft, verging on good – would have been fast enough for him on Tuesday. He should get further than two miles, he could improve for a step up in trip – his half-sister Zuzka won a Grade 3 race over two miles and five furlongs – and he should improve for easier ground and as he gains in experience over fences. He should have little difficulty winning his beginners’ chase before moving on to better things.

21st October 2014