Horses To Follow » Very Wood

Very Wood

Very Wood got his chasing career back on track with a good performance to win the Grade 2 Ten Up Chase at Navan on Sunday. Noel Meade’s gelding jumping was not as exuberant Noble Emperor’s – the horse with whom he traded blows in front down the back straight – but it was steady and assured and energy-conserving. He travelled well into the home straight, took up the running from Noble Emperor on the run to the second last fence, and stayed on well from the last fence to put four lengths between himself and his pursuer, himself an exciting and progressive novice, the pair of them finishing clear.

Winner of the Albert Bartlett Hurdle at Cheltenham last March despite an 11th-hour injury scare, the Gigginstown House horse got his chasing career off to a flyer when he won the beginners’ chase at Galway in October that has been used as a stepping stone in the past by some high-class performers, including China Rock, Last Instalment, Jessies Dream, Lyreen Legend and Don Cossack. He was disappointing on his next two runs, but it was interesting that on Sunday Bryan Cooper chose to ride him instead of Thunder And Roses, who was half his price in the betting. In fairness to Noel Meade, he had said beforehand that the Martaline gelding had worked well. He was very happy with him.

Meade’s horses are in top form these days, and Very Wood will have a big chance now at Cheltenham. The four-miler is probably more his race than the RSA Chase, given his stamina. He is only six, and not many six-year-olds win the four-miler – Tricky Trickster is the only six-year-old to win it since Boraceva in 1989 – but he was only five when he won the Albert Bartlett, and he was the first five-year-old to win the Albert Bartlett since Moulin Riche won the first staging of the race in 2005. The fact that he has Cheltenham Festival winning form is a massive asset and, if he did run in the four-miler, he would probably have one of the best amateur riders in the business for company in Nina Carberry.

15th February 2015