Horses To Follow » Hurricane Hollow

Hurricane Hollow

The performance that Hurricane Hollow put up in winning the finale at Cheltenham on Wednesday may go a little under the radar, not only because it was the last race on a midweek card, but also because it was a conditional riders’ race. It was an impressive performance, however, and Dan Skelton’s horse should continue to progress.

Settled at the back of the field by Bridget Andrews, last of the nine runners, through the early stages of the race, he wasn’t helped by the fact that the early pace was not strong. They did pick up a little as they started out on their final circuit, but it still wasn’t a fast pace, and that was not ideal for a horse who was held up at the back of the field.

The Beat Hollow gelding came under pressure when the pace quickened on the run down the hill and, by the time they started turning for home at the bottom of the hill, he was still only eighth and being ridden along. Three of the four horses in the front rank were apparently travelling better than him, and they obviously had a few lengths on him as well.

He did start to pick up on the run to the final flight however. Still just sixth 200 yards from the obstacle, he jumped it in fourth, and he jumped it well and landed with momentum. Suddenly he was third, just two lengths behind the duelling leaders as they started up the run-in. Bridget Andrews gave him three cracks of the whip, and he picked up on the near side. He joined Minellaforleisure at the half-furlong pole, and he finished strongly up the hill to go on and win by three lengths, with the runner-up six lengths clear of the third horse and the front three clear.

This was a solid performance. The runner-up is a talented individual who was well backed and who travelled well into the race. He finished fourth in the Grade 2 Gerry Feilden Hurdle at Newbury in January behind L’Ami Serge, Kilcooley and Violet Dancer, with Daneking, Le Mercurey and Wicklow Brave behind him. That is high-class handicap hurdle form. Also, the time was good, the fastest hurdle race of the day and just 0.04secs/furlong outside Racing Post par.

Hurricane Hollow himself was well backed, from morning prices of 8/1 and 9/1 to an SP of 5/1, and the contraction in his odds was only due in small part to two big-priced non-runners. He had shaped like a progressive individual on his first two runs this season, his first two runs over hurdles, both of which he won. Moved from Keith Dalgleish to Dan Skelton after those two wins, he got beaten in a good handicap hurdle at Kempton in December, the handicap hurdle in which Cloonacool beat the fast-finishing Violet Dancer by a short head after Chesterfield had fallen at the final flight, but that was excusable as the ground was obviously too soft for him. Given a nice break after that, presumably with the intention of waiting for the spring ground, he appeared to be much happier back on good ground on Wednesday. In winning, he put up one of the best performances of his career.

The handicapper will probably raise him a few pounds for this, but he has plenty of scope for progression. He is only five and this was just his fourth run over hurdles. He bounced off this ground, he is two for two on good ground, and he will be of interest wherever he goes next.

15th April 2015