Horses To Follow » Empire Of Dirt

Empire Of Dirt

Empire Of Dirt was unlucky not to win the two-mile-six-furlong handicap chase at Thurles on Thursday, falling at the second last fence when it appeared as though he had the race in the bag.

Always handy and jumping well, the Gigginstown House horse jumped on into the lead at the last fence before the straight on the first circuit. Once in front, he continued to travel and jump well, and he had all his rivals in trouble before they left the back straight with four fences left to jump.

David Mullins gave him a squeeze as they turned for home, and he quickly came further clear of his rivals on the run to the second last fence. He actually jumped the fence well, he met it on a good stride and he stretched out over it. But the ground runs away from you on the landing side at the second last fence at Thurles, and he just landed a little steeply and toppled over. It was in innocuous fall, and a little unfair on a horse who had jumped so well up to and even including that point.

Colm Murphy’s horse remains an interesting horse. He was a good novice hurdler last season. Beaten just four lengths by Faugheen on his third run over hurdles, he wasn’t beaten far by Real Steel and Vicky De L’Oasis in a Grade 2 contest at Naas in February, and he beat good horses like The Game Changer, Sizing Codelco, Martello Tower and Shantou Ed in a listed hurdle back at Naas the following month. He had shaped encouragingly over fences this season even before Thursday. He was fourth behind Gilgamboa and Blood Cotil on his chasing bow at Navan in November, and he finished second to in-form and progressive mare Down Ace at Down Royal on St Stephen’s Day on his final run before Thursday. However, he probably would have put up a career-best at Thurles had he not fallen at the second last.

Rated 131 over hurdles, he is built to jump fences, and he jumps them so well that it is probable he will be an even better chaser than a hurdler. As such, he will be interesting in a handicap chase now off a mark of 123. He could be a really well-handicapped horse now, as long as the handicapper does not penalise him unduly for this non-completion. Also, he has raced just five times now over fences, so he should still be progressing as a chaser. He handles goodish ground, but he is probably at his best on soft and, out of a half-sister to Thyestes Chase winner Be My Belle, he should stay three miles at least. He could even progress again for stepping up again in trip, and he will be of big interest now in staying handicap chases.

15th January 2015