Horses To Follow » Return Spring

Return Spring

Return Spring ran a nice race to finish third behind the new RSA Chase favourite Kings Palace and his stable companion Sausalio Sunrise in the three-mile novices’ chase at Cheltenham on Friday. Settled in fourth place of the four runners by Richard Johnson in the early stages of the race, Philip Hobbs’ horse’s jumping was accurate and fluent from the outset. He did appear to get a little out-paced as they went to the end of the back straight, but he was still only about four lengths behind the leader as they rose to the third last fence. From there, he came under pressure as the pacier pair Kings Palace and Sausalito Sunrise kicked for home around the home turn, but he stayed on well up the run-in after meeting the last fence on a wrong stride, closing runner-up Sausalito Sunrise down to two lengths at the line.

The Vinnie Roe gelding was a good staying hurdler last season, winning at Cheltenham in November and on New Year’s Day, and finishing second to Sunnyhillboy in the good three-mile handicap hurdle at the December meeting. He did start off this term over hurdles, but he finished 16th of 17th on his debut behind Sybarite at Cheltenham’s October meeting, and he was switched to fences. He has raced just three times over fences now, but already he shapes as though he will be a better chaser than hurdler. He was not beaten far by Carole’s Destrier and Carraig Mor (who beat Southfield Theatre on his next run) on his chasing bow at Exeter in early November, and he stayed on well to beat the talented mare Highland Retreat – also an impressive winner since – back at Exeter over three miles later that month. Saturday’s performance was another step forward on that run, and he can continue to progress now.

He shaped on Saturday as if three miles on good to soft ground was not a stiff enough test of stamina for him. He should do better now back on deep winter ground, or stepped up in trip, or both. If he has a Cheltenham Festival target, it will surely be the National Hunt Chase over four miles as opposed to the RSA Chase over two. The amateur riders’ race is a legitimate target also for his stable companion Sausalito Sunrise, but Hobbs is not averse to running two horses in the same race when they represent different owners. Return Spring has won twice and finished second once in three runs at Cheltenham. He will be of interest wherever he goes next when there is a premium on stamina, there could be a good staying handicap chase in him off a mark of 142, and he will also be of interest if the National Hunt Chase is confirmed as his Cheltenham Festival target.

12th December 2014