Horses To Follow » Johns Spirit

Johns Spirit

Johns Spirit ran a massive race to finish second in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham on Saturday. Actually, he was probably unlucky not to win it.

Always travelling well in behind, he made nice progress for Richie McLernon around the outside as they ran down the hill to the third last fence. He collided with Oscar Whisky at that fence, but he quickly recovered his equilibrium and he travelled well around the home turn. Asked to pick up as soon as he landed over the second last fence, he made rapid headway on the near side, and he actually picked up in front at the final fence. From there, he looked the most likely winner by far, he went two lengths clear, and he probably had four lengths in hand over ultimate winner Caid Du Berlais half way up the run-in. But we know that Jonjo O’Neill’s horse does not like to be out there on his own for too long and, as he idled and looked around him, Sam Twiston-Davies conjured a run out of Caid Du Berlais up the final climb, to which Johns Spirit succumbed, going down by just a head in the end.

The Gold Well gelding just continues to improve. He was a progressive novice two seasons ago, but he won the handicap chase at the October meeting in 2013 off a mark of 129, and he followed up in last year’s Paddy Power off a 10lb higher mark. Starting off this season on a mark of 147, 8lb higher than last year’s Paddy Power-winning mark, he again won the handicap chase at the October meeting, and he all but won the Paddy Power off a mark of 156, 17lb higher than the mark off which he won it last year.

This performance puts him in graded territory, no question, and the Ryanair Chase is the obvious target for him. We know that he loves Cheltenham, a stiff two and a half miles is probably ideal for him, and he should do even better on better ground. He can go well in the spring as well as the autumn and, if Jonjo trains him for the Ryanair now, he could be a leading player in the race.

15th November 2014