Horses To Follow » Oscar Rock

Oscar Rock

Oscar Rock put up a nice performance in his first-time blinkers to win the two-and-a-half-mile handicap chase at Newcastle on Saturday.

Malcolm Jefferson’s horse’s task was obviously made easier by the defection of Rouge Et Blanc, but there appeared to be plenty of confidence behind him, he was well backed both before and after Oliver Sherwood’s horse was ruled out.

Settled into a nice position towards the outside and just behind the leaders by the excellent Brian Hughes, Oscar Rock jumped a little to his left throughout, but it wasn’t a major issue at left-handed Newcastle, notwithstanding the fact that his rider appeared to want to keep him towards the outside, probably in search of the best of the ground. Galway Jack and the runaway Frontier Spirit between them ensured that the pace was good, and Oscar Rock travelled well behind it. Switched to the inside in the home straight, he joined the leader Galway Jack at the third last fence, at which point he was immediately challenged by And The Man. Nicky Richards’ horse did present a real threat as well, he got to within a half a length of the leader at the last fence, and when Oscar Rock got in tight to that obstacle, it gave his challenger a chance. However, he picked up well from there, he had as much in reserve as it appeared, and he stayed on gamely all the way to the line. Even though And The Man also ran all the way to the line, it never looked likely that he would get past.

Oscar Rock is only seven, and he has raced just 11 times in his life now: three times in bumpers, six times in hurdle races, and now twice over fences. This was just his second chase. He still has bundles of scope for progression.

An exciting bumper horse when with Harry Fry, he was highly regarded when he started jumping hurdles for Jefferson last season. However, after winning his maiden, he was a beaten favourite in his four other runs, including in the Grade 1 Challow Hurdle, when he finished third behind Captain Cutter and Timesremembered.

He started off this season over hurdles, in the Fixed Brush Hurdle at Haydock that featured Aubusson and Big Easy and Dara Tango and Volnay De Thaix, before he was switched to fences.

Tried in cheekpieces for the first time that day at Kelso in early December, he ran okay, but he was ultimately well beaten by Wakanda. There was no disgrace in that, Wakanda beat Cogry in the Grade 2 Altcar Chase at Haydock in January, but you still felt that Oscar Park was capable of better. He produced better on Saturday, with first-time blinkers replacing his cheekpieces.

The handicapper raised him 6lb for Saturday’s win, but that leaves him on a mark of 138, which is fair. He was rated 140 at his peak over hurdles. He jumped his fences really well on Saturday, under a lovely quiet ride from Brian Hughes, and he should be able to progress from Saturday’s run. He seems to be happy in his blinkers, so hopefully he will wear them in the future and they will continue to have this effect. He does jump left at his fences, so he will probably be at his best on a left-handed track, at least for now. He is exciting again now.

21st February 2015