Horses To Follow » Triolo D’Alene

Triolo D’Alene

Triolo D’Alene put up a taking performance to finish third behind Unioniste and Bertie Boru in the three-mile handicap chase at Sandown on Saturday.

Nicky Henderson’s horse was settled at the rear of the field by Barry Geraghty through the early stages of the race, literally last of the 11 runners as Relax stretched the field out from the front. He was also taken to the outside at every opportunity, which made sense for a horse for whom Saturday’s soft ground should have been far softer than ideal.

A mistake at the fence past the stands did not help and he was still stone last as they started down the back straight. He started to make progress from there, however. Staying well towards the outside, he had passed four of his rivals by the time he jumped the first of the Railway Fences. Still fully 16 lengths behind the leaders, he wasn’t completely fluent at the last two Railway Fences, but he continued to make progress under his motionless rider out of the back straight. He was seventh and just about 10 lengths behind the leaders at the Pond fence, he passed Vino Griego on the run to the second last, jumped that fence in sixth place, about six lengths behind the leader, and stayed on well from there over the last and up the run-in. The winner Unioniste had gone, but the Epalo gelding passed three horses on the run-in to take third place.

This was much more like it from Triolo D’Alene. The ground should have been far too soft for him, and he was weak in the betting beforehand, so it is reasonable to expect that he can improve significantly on this run now. He hasn’t won since he won the Hennessy at Newbury in November 2013. In fairness to the horse, he had only raced three times in the interim before Saturday, but all three runs had been disappointing. He finished just 10th of 13 in the Cheltenham Gold Cup last March, and he was pulled up in his other two races, in last season’s Grand National and in this season’s Hennessy. You can forgive him all three runs, however. Cheltenham is not his track, he is at his best on flat tracks; you can easily forgive a seven-year-old a poor run in the Grand National; and the ground was far too soft for him in the Hennessy last November.

The handicapper has dropped him back to a mark of 154 now, just 7lb higher than the mark off which he won the Hennessy, and that makes him interesting now. He will always be of interest on good ground on a flat track with the emphasis on stamina, so he is shaping like a Grand National horse. Add to that the fact that he won the Topham Chase in 2013, so we know that he can handle the unusual fences, and the case for him becomes more compelling. The main worry about him in the context of the Grand National concerns his age. Bindaree is still the last horse aged eight or younger to win the National, and Bindaree was 2002. The last five winners have been 10 or 11.

It may be that Triolo D’Alene’s Grand National challenge will be more compelling next year or even the year after. In the meantime, he will be of interest when he next races on a flat track on good-ish ground.

3rd January 2014