Horses To Follow » Saint Charles

Saint Charles

Saint Charles did well to finish as close as he did in the two-mile novices’ hurdle at Ascot on Saturday. Weak in the market, Nicky Henderson’s horse was really keen through the early stages of the race, but he travelled well into the home straight, and he looked the most likely winner on the run to the final flight. However, his early exertions took their toll at that point, and that, combined with the excellent ride from Ruby Walsh from which the winner Thistlecrack benefited, enabled the Colin Tizzard horse to catch and pass him. Even so, Saint Charles still kept on well enough to the line to retain second place, a length in front of third-placed Otago Trail.

This was still a really good run. Thistlecrack had run out a nine-length winner on his debut over hurdles at Wincanton in January before disappointing at Cheltenham in the interim, and he was given a really confident ride, waited with through the hottest part of the race. Also, the winning time was good, the fastest comparative time on the day, Betfair Chase day, by some way.

A £140,000 purchase at Cheltenham last March, Saint Charles is really interesting now. Well fancied on his racecourse debut in a bumper at Ayr last April, he finished fourth behind Tea For Two’s conqueror on Saturday, Arpege D’Alene, in a maiden hurdle at Ascot in November, before getting off the mark at Doncaster last month. That race is working out well. Third-placed Our Kaempfer won a novices’ hurdle at Market Rasen last Sunday by eight lengths, while runner-up Work In Progress could have won a strongly-run novices’ handicap hurdle at Sandown last Friday had he not fallen at the final flight.

Saint Charles is only five, and he has raced just four times in his life, just three times over hurdles. He has bags of scope for progression. He should be able to win a decent novice hurdle, but the handicapper has given him a mark of 131, and he would be very interesting in a good handicap off that mark. He should progress as he learns to settle better, and he should be well suited to the fast pace that big-field handicaps tend to generate.

14th February 2015