Horses To Follow » If In Doubt

If In Doubt

If In Doubt put up a fairly remarkable performance in winning the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster on Saturday.

Held up in the early stages of the race at the back of the field and towards the outside by AP McCoy, his jumping really was not good. JP McManus’ horse made mistakes at the first, second and fourth fences in the home straight first time, and at the two fences on the far side on the run up over Rose Hill. And the errors apart, his jumping was not fluent. He seemed to be intent on getting in deep to his fences instead of having a cut at them when he was meeting one on a long stride.

Even so, he made smooth headway around the outside at the far end of the track, and moved up just behind the leaders, travelling well, as they straightened up for home. Third at the fourth last fence, he joined new leader Night In Milan at the third last and, despite getting in tight to the second last fence, looked set to go on and win easily. He got in tight to the final fence, however, and that allowed Baileys Concerto draw almost alongside, but he had plenty left to give, and he picked up impressively on the run-in to come away and win well, ears pricked.

You can pick holes in the performance if you want. You can point to the fact that his jumping really was poor, and that they went hard up front in the early stages of the race, which set it up for the closers. However, it might pay to take the view that it was a remarkable performance to win a competitive staying handicap chase as easily as he did given how poorly he jumped. The pace was strong, but the winning time was really good, the fastest comparative time on the day and 0.14secs/furlong faster than Racing Post par. Also, he won with his ears pricked, coming away from the runner-up. He left the impression that he had plenty more left to give.

The handicapper raised the Philip Hobbs-trained horse 10lb for this, but a hike of that magnitude was to be expected, given the ease with which he won. He is only seven and this was just his fourth chase, he still has lots of scope for progression. And if can add some fluency to his jumping, which is more than possible with schooling and as he gains in experience, he could progress fairly significantly. He is in the RSA Chase, but that may not be the best race for him now. He was a little disappointing in the Pertemps Final last year, so perhaps he will be best kept away from the Festival this year. He ran well to finish second in the Lanzarote Hurdle at Kempton last year, so he would be of interest now if he were to return to the Sunbury track for the BetBright Chase at the end of February.

24th January 2015