Horses To Follow » Hello George

Hello George

There were several horses to take out of the Ladbroke Hurdle at Ascot on Saturday, it was a really strong race run at a good pace and in a good time, faster than Racing Post par on what should have been the worst ground of the day. Hello George may be the most under-rated of them going forward.

Settled just behind the front rank in the early stages of the race by James Best, Philip Hobbs’ horse was a little keener than ideal through the early stages of the race, racing, as he did, up on the outside of the pack, and seeing plenty of daylight from early. His jumping was generally fluent, but he did make a mistake at the fourth last flight, he just left his hind legs behind him a little, when the pace was at its hottest, just when you didn’t want to be making a mistake. He was coming under pressure anyway before that, but that error put the final nail in his chance of winning the race.

You would have understood it if he had wilted from there, if he had waved the white flag and fallen back through the field, so it was to his immense credit that he responded to his rider’s urgings in order to retain his position in the leading group as they turned for home. Ninth of the 10 horses in the leading group as they straightened up for home, he stayed on well over the final two flights and ended up finishing sixth, closing on the fifth horse Garde La Victoire all the way to the line.

This run from Hello George strongly suggested that he would benefit from a step up in trip. He just got outpaced when they quickened down the side of the track, he just couldn’t go with them, even on this holding ground, but he did stay on well all the way to the line. He has never gone beyond an extended two miles before. All of his seven races now, three bumpers and now four hurdle races, have been at the minimum trip. Despite this, when his trainer was talking about potential Cheltenham Festival targets, it was the Neptune Hurdle that he suggested, not the Supreme Novices’.

The downside of a step up in trip will be that he may be more inclined to race more keenly, at the slightly easier pace that they will go over the longer trip. However, he may learn to settle better as he gains in experience, and he should do better anyway tucked away in behind horses instead of racing towards the outside and seeing daylight the whole way. Also, it would not be a surprise if his trainer fitted a hood soon to help him settle, especially if he steps him up to two and a half miles now.

The handicapper has left him on his mark of 129, which is more than fair. He is just five and this was just his fourth race over hurdles, so he has lots of scope for progression. He will be of interest again now in a handicap hurdle off that mark, especially on soft ground and even more so if he is stepped up in trip. The Lanzarote Hurdle, run over two miles and five furlongs at Kempton in January, could be the race for him now, and he will be of big interest in that if he is aimed at it. Philip Hobbs has never won the Lanzarote, but he sent out If In Doubt – a similarly progressive, lightly-raced young hurdler – to finish second to the well-handicapped Saphir Du Rheu in the race last year.

20th December 2014