Horses To Follow » The Shunter

The Shunter

The Shunter did well to keep on as well as he did to finish fourth in the Matheson Handicap Chase at Leopardstown on Saturday. Sent to the front from flagfall by Brian Hayes, The Shunter was keen enough in front through the early stages of the race. He remained in front, jumping well, until he got in tight to the first ditch, and Entoucas and Epson Du Houx moved up on his outside, and Capuccimix moved up on his inside. He remained prominent though, and he travelled well to the end of the back straight. He came under a ride on the run to the second last fence, he dropped back to fifth and it looked as if he might drop right back through the field, but he boxed on well on the inside around the home turn. It didn’t help that he was a little short of room on the run to the final fence, and he was only fifth jumping the last, but he stayed on well on the run-in to move back into third place, running on strongly to finish less than four lengths behind the winner A Wave Of The Sea.

It was a good run by Emmet Mullins’ horse over a trip that just didn’t appear to present as stiff a stamina test as he probably needs in order to be at his most effective. He did win the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham in November over an extended two miles, but the ground was really testing at Cheltenham that day, and that brought his stamina into play. He won his maiden hurdle at Downpatrick in September over two miles and three furlongs, and he won his beginners’ chase at Punchestown in late September over two miles and five furlongs, when he beat the now 136-rated Enjoy D’Allen by 18 lengths. He should to better when he steps up a little in distance.

The handicapper raised The Shunter by 3lb for this to a mark of 135, and that was fair. He has raced just five times over fences, so he has the potential to go beyond that mark. It is a pity that the novices’ handicap chase at the Cheltenham Festival has been scrapped, that could have been a good race for him, given that he is one for one at Cheltenham, but he will be of interest now wherever he goes next. Out of a half-sister to Florida Express, who won over three miles on heavy ground over fences and finished fourth in a Troytown Chase, he will be of greatest interest if he steps up in trip, probably to two and a half miles, but he would also be worth trying over three if and when he learns to settle a little better.
Leopardstown, 6th February 2021