Horses To Follow » Black Hercules

Black Hercules

Black Hercules put up a really impressive performance to win the JLT Chase on Thursday. Sent to the front after that shambolic start, at which Zabana unseated his rider, Ruby Walsh allowed the Heron Island gelding settle back into a nice even rhythm along the inside as Bristol De Mai and Mount Gunnery went on. Moved towards the outside as they started off down the back straight final time, his jumping was good, it took him effortlessly into a share of the lead with Bristol De Mai as they ascended. Second as they raced down the hill, he made his only semblance of a mistake at the third last fence, but he was quickly back up alongside the leader as they rounded the home turn. At that point, Nico de Boinville produced L’Ami Serge who surged into the lead, but it was apparent that Walsh hadn’t gone for everything on Black Hercules. He wasn’t helped by the fact that L’Ami Serge jumped across him at the second last fence but, moved towards the outside, he was quickly back on an even keel, and he picked up impressively from that point, wresting the lead back on landing over the last, and staying on strongly all the way to the line to record an impressive victory, and bring up his riders 50th winner at the Cheltenham Festival.

This was a high-class race, as the JLT Chase often is. Last year, Vautour won it, beating Apache Stronghold and Valseur Lido into second and third places. In 2014, Taquin Du Seuil won it in a race in which Djakadam fell. In 2012, Sir Des Champs won it. Both Outlander and Garde La Victoire fell in this year’s renewal, but the two Simon Munir/Isaac Suede horses Bristol De Mai and L’Ami Serge set a high standard, and Black Hercules beat them both well. Also, the race was run in a good time, 0.24secs/furlong faster than Racing Post par.

Black Hercules was a high-class staying novice hurdler last season, and he was a highly progressive novice chaser in the early part of this term. He stayed on well to win the Hampton Chase over three miles on heavy ground at Warwick in January, but he raced a little keenly in the Ten Up Chase at Navan over three miles before he fell at the last with the race in the bag, and that was a major factor in Willie Mullins’ insightful decision to change his Cheltenham target from the National Hunt Chase over four miles to the JLT over two and a half. He obviously has pace for this trip, but he also has stamina, and he has bundles of talent. He could be a Ryanair Chase horse for next season, or he could step up again in trip. He is only seven and this was just his fourth chase so, all going well, there could be much more to come. He could be a horse for the novices’ two-and-a-half-mile chase at Aintree, or he could be a horse for the three-mile chase.

17th March 2016