Horses To Follow » Willoughby Court

Willoughby Court

The general consensus after the Neptune Hurdle on Wednesday was that, if Neon Wolf had not stumbled on landing over the final flight, he probably would have beaten the winner Willoughby Court. But that may not have been the case.

Neon Wolf had plenty of time to get past Ben Pauling’s horse. He raced up with the leader as they started around the home turn, but he was no closer to him as they approached the final flight than he was on the crown of the home turn. Indeed, on the approach to the final flight it looked, if anything, as if Willoughby Court was putting a little more distance between them. Neon Wolf did stumble a little on landing over the last, and he was at least a length down when he switched to the far side. He did close that gap to a head, but he wasn’t closing any more inside the last 50 yards. Willoughby Court is tough, he was always holding the favourite, and he left the impression that, if they had had to go another 100 yards, or 200 yards, or 300 yards, he still would have been in front.

Both horses are obviously highly talented, they pulled almost four lengths clear of the third horse Messire Des Obeaux, a Grade 1 winner. However, it may be that the runner-up will be considered an unlucky loser and, consequently, the winner may not get due credit. He was allowed an easy lead, David Bass was able to set his own fractions, but he is a horse who stays well and there is every reason to expect that he could do at least as well off a strong pace.

Winner of two of his four bumpers and fifth in the Grade 2 Aintree bumper last season, Paul and Clare Rooney’s horse has only been beaten once now in four runs over hurdles, and that was on his hurdling debut at Market Rasen, when he raced in a tongue-tie for the first and only time. He then won his maiden and followed up by landing the Grade 2 Leamington Hurdle at Warwick in January, in which he beat Gayebury and Peregrine Run. That was his last run before he went to Cheltenham and won the Neptune Hurdle.

By Court Cave, he is out of a half-sister to high-class staying chaser Nil Desperandum, so it is surely as a staying chaser that his future lies. In the meantime, he will be of interest in staying novice hurdles between now and the end of the season. He could be under-rated next time he races, and he will be of interest wherever he goes. He did have the Albert Bartlett Hurdle over three miles as an alternative option at Cheltenham, and he would be interesting if he stepped up to three miles for the Sefton Hurdle at Aintree.

15th March 2017