Horses To Follow » Urgent De Gregaine

Urgent De Gregaine

Urgent De Gregaine surprised plenty of people when he sprang a 50/1 shock in the cross-country chase at Cheltenham last Saturday.

Sent to Britain from France essentially as a travelling companion for his stable mate Vezelay, who ran in the Cotswold Chase, Emmanuel Clayeux’s horse was allowed go off at a Betfair SP of 128/1, but he belied those odds with a thoroughly impressive display to run out the winner on merit.

Racing from 6lb out of the handicap, he travelled well through his race, and he jumped the varied obstacles in his stride. He was fast at the banks and he was efficient at the hedges. Indeed, he was least impressive at the regulation birch fences.

He made nice ground from the fourth last fence under a patient Felix de Giles, he cruised in behind Cantlow back onto the racecourse proper, he joined him at the final obstacle and he ran past him on the run up the hill, staying on strongly to pull away from the favourite and win by three lengths. It was a really impressive performance and it would be a mistake to under-rate him.

It is difficult to equate French chase form with British and Irish form, but a lot of the chases in France are essentially cross-country chases, so Urgent De Gregaine is obviously used to jumping varied obstacles, and he took to the Cheltenham track really well. He was receiving 15lb from Cantlow, but he beat him on merit, and Cantlow was well-backed, and finished over 20 lengths clear of the rest of the field. Also, the time of the race was good. The cross-country track was riding faster than the chase and hurdles track on the day, as it often does, but it was still good to soft according to the official description, and the time that Urgent De Gregaine clocked was 0.21secs/furlong faster than Racing Post par. To put it into context, the time was 1.3secs faster than the time that Any Currency clocked in the race at the Festival last March on faster ground, officially good, and it was 4.3secs faster than the time that Josies Orders clocked at the December meeting last season on similar ground, described officially as good to soft.

The cross-country chase at the Festival is not a handicap, so Urgent De Gregaine will be 15lb worse off with Cantlow if he does come back for the Festival, but this race is more about attitude and rhythm than it is about weights and measures. Urgent De Gregaine obviously relished this challenge and the variety of the obstacles, as well as the step up to this marathon trip. Also, this was his first run in a cross-country race at Cheltenham, he should improve for this experience. Most horses do improve for their debut at the track. All things being equal, he will be a big player in the cross-country race at the Festival in March.

28th January 2017