Horses To Follow » Irish Cavalier

Irish Cavalier

Irish Cavalier did really well to win the two-and-a-half-mile novices’ handicap chase at Cheltenham on the opening day. Always in a nice rhythm for Paul Townend in his first-time cheekpieces in mid-division and on the inside, he seemed to get slightly outpaced as the pace picked up at the top of the hill. Back travelling well just behind the leaders on the run down the hill to the third last fence, he was crowded out of it a little at the obstacle, got in tight and nodded a little on landing, with the result that he emerged on the landing side no better than eighth.

Townend had to get after him as they ran around the home turn, and it didn’t look like he was going to get involved. However, switched to the stands side in the home straight, he finished powerfully. Still eighth on the run to the second last, he jumped the last in fifth place, but only about a length and a half behind the leader Horizontal Speed, and he stayed on really well up the run-in to win, going away, by two and a half lengths.

This was a really good performance by Rebecca Curtis’ horse. He shaped on his previous run behind Generous Ransom over two miles and five furlongs at Cheltenham in January as if a step up in trip would suit him – the three-mile handicap chase was a legitimate Festival target for him – but he does stay this trip really well, and his stamina was an asset over two and a half miles in a race run at a good pace and at a stiff track. It was an astute decision by his trainer to keep him to two and a half miles in order to keep him in novice company at the Festival, and to fit him with cheekpieces. He may not need the headgear if and when he steps up in trip.

The handicapper raised him 9lb for this, but that still leaves him on a mark of just 146, and that is a mark which he should be able to surpass. He is only six, and this was just his fourth run over fences. He has bundles of scope for progression, and he could progress again for a step up in trip. He goes well on soft ground and he can operate on flat tracks, but goodish ground seems to suit him best, and he obviously goes well at Cheltenham. The two best runs of his life now, his two most recent runs, have been at Prestbury Park.

He will be of interest now wherever he goes next. He could legitimately step up in grade now at Aintree or at Punchestown, and he is an exciting young staying chaser for next season.

10th March 2015