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Huntsman Son

Huntsman Son did well to finish second in the 2m handicap hurdle. Remilluc and Our Merlin were gifted a lead of about 8l at the start, and they finished first and third respectively. Huntsman Son was the only horse who managed to come out of the pack to challenge them, he finished second, between the pair of them, and the three of them were clear of the well-backed favourite Le Patriote. The field closed on the two leaders on the run down the hill, but the front two kicked on again on the home turn. Huntsman Son travelled well down the hill and, while he struggled for pace as the front two got away from him again around the home turn, he stayed on well over the last and up the run-in to finish second, beaten just 2l. He is eight, but this was just his sixth run over hurdles, and he should be able to progress again. This was his first run over 2m, and it may be that he will do better stepped back up to 2m 4f. Also, his best form before this was on good and good to soft ground, so he could do even better when the ground gets better. The handicapper raised him just 2lb to a mark of 135, and that is more than fair.

Cheltenham, 27th January 2018


Santini put up a really game performance to win the 2m 4f Grade 2 Classic Novice Hurdle. It looked like he was booked for second place when Black Op went clear on the run to the final flight, but the leader got in tight to that obstacle and landed flat-footed, which gave Santini a chance. Even so, Nicky Henderson’s horse had to be courageous and he had to battle up the hill, away from the favoured stands rail, which he duly did, getting up by three parts of a length and clocking a good time.

This was just Santini’s second run under Rules. Winner of his only point-to-point, he was an impressive winner of a good novice hurdle at Newbury on Hennessy weekend on his racecourse debut. He beat his better-fancied stable companion Chef Des Obeaux into second place that day, and Chef Des Obeaux has won his two races since, latterly running out an impressive winner of a 3m novices’ hurdle at Kempton from the highly-regarded Secret Investor. An intended runner at Ascot on Clarence House Chase day, but withdrawn because of the heavy ground, Santini coped with heavy conditions well on Saturday, although trainer Nicky Henderson said that he would probably be better on better ground.

This was a good step forward by the Milan gelding, and he should improve again. He could do better on better ground and stepped up to 3m and, as such, he would be a leading player in the Albert Bartlett Hurdle if connections decided to allow him go down that route. Wichita Lineman, Bobs Worth and At Fishers Cross all went on to win the Albert Bartlett Hurdle in recent years after winning this race.

Cheltenham, 27th January 2018

Mister Whitaker

Mr Whitaker put up an impressive performance to win the 2m 5f handicap chase. His jumping down the back straight in behind horses was not overly fluent, he was awkward and out to his right at the water, he made a significant mistake at the second open ditch and he nodded a little on landing over the fourth last, but he still travelled really well down the hill. He moved threateningly in behind the leading trio around the home turn, he hit the front on the run to the final fence and, while Theatre Territory battled on gamely, the winner was probably just idling in front and he was always going to hold on. The front two pulled clear of the talented Sizing Tennessee and the winning time was good.

Mick Channon’s horse continues to progress over fences. On his previous run he had given Hell’s Kitchen a real race over 2m 4f at Kempton on St Stephen’s Day, the pair of them clear, and this was another step forward from that. He coped well with the heavy ground, and he handled Cheltenham’s undulations, so that all opens up more options for him. The handicapper raised him by 8lb to a mark of 137, which will probably not be high enough to get him into the Close Brothers Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, but he will be of interest wherever he goes next. This intermediate trip looks like a good trip for him. He is only six and this was just his fourth chase, so he has bundles of scope for progression now as a chaser.

Cheltenham, 27th January 2018

Long House Hall

Long House Hall ran a cracker to finish fourth in the Sky Bet Chase. Weak in the market beforehand on this, his first run in 560 days, he travelled really well through his race for Harry Skelton. Held up in rear initially, he made nice progress on the outside down the back straight. A mistake at the cross fence didn’t help, but he still travelled well into the home straight in fifth place. The first four got away from him a little but he jumped into third over the second last fence and looked the most likely winner when he joined Warriors Tale over the last, but he just couldn’t go on from there as lack of peak fitness probably took its toll.

He should improve for this, as long as he doesn’t ‘bounce’, and he should do better back on better ground. All his good form before this was on good ground, including his win on his previous run in the Summer Plate at Market Rasen in July 2016. He is 10 years old, but this was just his fifth chase, so he could progress from this experience. The handicapper raised him just 1lb to a mark of 146, which was fair. He could be a well-handicapped horse on this evidence, and he could do even better dropped back down to 2m 4f or 2m 5f.

Doncaster, 27th January 2018


There was a lot to like about the performance that Sandsend put up in winning the Grade 3 Limestone Lad Hurdle. Settled in third place early on by Paul Townend, Willie Mullins’ horse travelled well through his race, and he moved into second place behind Forge Meadow on the run to the second last flight. Jessica Harrington’s mare got away from him a little on landing over that obstacle, and he wasn’t as fast as she was over the last, so he did well to battle on as well as he did against a talented and gutsy mare to get up and win by a neck, with the pair of them finishing well clear of Destin D’ajonc, who rallied well to take third place. The first two finished 11l clear of their rivals and the winning time was good.

There was a lot to like about this performance. Sandsend travelled well through his race, he battled well up the hill away from the far rail, and he did well to win given that he was not as fluent as the runner-up was over either of the last two flights. Forge Meadow is a talented mare who is as good as ever this season, she was impressive in winning a listed mares’ hurdle at Punchestown on her debut this season, and she chased home Let’s Dance at Leopardstown on her last run before Sunday.

Sandsend is only five and this was just his third run over hurdles and just his second for Willie Mullins. He could progress considerably as he gains more experience. He was beaten on his Irish debut over 2m 4f at Limerick at Christmas, but he obviously improved for that experience, as he was entitled to, and he should improve again on this run. His trainer said afterwards that he should be a nice novice chasing prospect for next season, but there could be more to come from him as a novice hurdler before then.

Naas, 28th January 2018

Cut The Mustard

Cut The Mustard ran a lot better than her finishing position in fifth place suggests in the 2m mares’ maiden hurdle. Settled in third place by Paul Townend through the early stages of the race behind Moonlight Escape and Moyhenna, Willie Mullins’ mare’s jumping was not as fluent as the two leaders’, but she travelled well. She closed on the leaders as they raced across the top of the track and she joined them on the outside on the run to the second last flight. A mistake there left her with about 2l to find with the two leaders as they raced around the home turn, but she made up some of that ground on the outside, and she was just about a half a length behind them as they reached the final flight, where she made a really bad mistake. She lost her hind legs and Paul Townend did well to remain on board, in an incident that obviously ended any chance she had of winning. She probably would have finished a close-up third at worst without that mistake, and she might even have won.

Her record in Ireland now reads 85, but that does not do justice to her performances. She was travelling well in another mares’ maiden hurdle at Limerick over Christmas on her debut for Willie Mullins and she was jumping the Easyfix hurdles well before she made a fairly bad mistake there too at the last hurdle in the back straight. Winner of a 12f bumper in France, she obviously has ability, and she could improve considerably as her jumping improves with experience.

Punchestown, 30th January 2018