Horses To Follow » San Benedeto

San Benedeto

San Benedeto put up a nice performance to win what was ultimately a fairly muddling Scottish Champion Chase at Musselburgh on Sunday.

Always up in the front rank, Paul Nicholls’ horse made a fairly significant error at the sixth fence, from which he did really well to recover. Back level with favourite Baltimore Rock in front at the top of the home straight, he picked up nicely from there, went clear at the second last and had the race in safe keeping by the time he jumped the last, where he was a little big. Even so, he kept on well to win by eight lengths from Witness In Court, who was well clear of Solar Impulse in third.

This race may not have taken as much winning as it might have, with favourite Baltimore Rock fading quickly from the third last fence after racing keenly early on. That said, San Benedeto did well to win as well as he did, after making that mistake.

He had been running well over two and a half miles earlier in the season, but he seemed to appreciate the faster pace here over two miles on goodish ground. He was a bit keen early on, dropping back down in trip but, once he was allowed stride on, he was very good.

This could be key to him now, two miles and ridden aggressively up with the pace. He is probably better too on a flat track than on an undulating track. His best runs have been at Kempton, Newbury, Ascot and Wincanton, all flat tracks, and he was well beaten in a conditional riders’ handicap hurdle on the only occasion on which he has completed at Cheltenham, so he is probably not one for the Festival.

The handicapper raised him by 5lb to a mark of 145, but that is fair and it is just 3lb higher than his mark over hurdles. He is only six and he has raced just eight times over fences, so he still has scope for progression. He will be of interest again now on a flat track and on good ground, back here at Musselburgh or at Doncaster, both flat tracks were the ground is usually better than it is elsewhere. Assistant trainer Harry Derham said afterwards that he could be a horse for the Red Rum Chase at Aintree, and that makes a lot of sense. That is a flat track and the ground is often good on the Mildmay Coursefor the Grand National meeting.

5th February 2017