Friday, December 16, 2011

Four to follow

Four to follow

By Stephen Dwyer

Below are two chasers and two hurdlers who will be entered in races over the next couple of weeks and can be followed with confidence.

Bog Warrior
You don’t win the Drinmore by 31 lengths unless you are a serious horse. Bog Warrior, a highly progressive seven year old is just that. By leading stallion Strategic Choice, Bog Warrior is winner of four out of five starts to date. From a gritty bumper win on his debut, Tony Martin’s stable star easily landed a Beginner’s chase over two miles with a clear round of jumping. He is very fluid over fences and will comfortably stay three miles. His only fall came at the last flight of hurdles on bottomless ground at Navan and he has sharpened his jumping since. Taking a huge leap up in class since his chase debut, he beat last year’s star novice hurdler First Lieutenant in the 2 mile 4 furlong Drinmore last time out. Acting best on Soft ground, Bog Warrior is unlikely to travel to Cheltenham on good ground but he will be seen over Christmas at Leopardstown and should be fully supported over an extended trip.

Mikael D’Haguenet
Clearly not a chaser, Mikael D’Haguenet attempted to overcome a 593 day absence last year when looking a likely winner before falling at the last in the Grade One Drinmore. He was well fancied in the RSA Chase at Cheltenham but failed to make an impression. Mikael D’Haguenet has never won over fences, even when he was a younger horse in France but over hurdles he a different horse. A winner of three Grade One races including the Ballymore Novice’s Hurdle at Cheltenham, Willie Mullins seven year old remained unbeaten over smaller obstacles throughout the 2008/2009 season. He spent almost two years on the sidelines through injury but made a return to winning ways recently when carrying a low weight at Fairyhouse. Over two and a half miles on ground with some give in it, he can recapture his younger promise and the sky is the limit.

Quito De La Roque
A half-brother to smart 2m4f-3m hurdle winner Kazal, Quito De La Roque was cut from 3/1 into 7/4 favourite for the Lexus Chase following the retirement of Denman. Trained by Colm Murphy, the seven year old gelding is unbeaten in 2011. He was put away for Leopardstown and bypassed the Drinmore recently to give him every chance at Christmas. French bred in the style of some really decent chasers that Michael O’ Leary has procured over the past couple of seasons, he has only finished out of the first two placings once in his twelve starts. Effective on easy ground, he came from the clouds to beat Sizing Europe in the Champion Chase at Down Royal last month. He stays well and although beaten ¾ of a length by subsequent RSA winner Boston’s Angel at Leopardstown last year, Quito De La Roque went on to win the Mildmay chase at Aintree. He is one of Ireland’s leading staying chasers and it will take an exceptional horse to lower his colours if at his best in the Lexus.

Named after one of South Africa’s top wine producers, Simonsig is a dual Irish Point to Point winner. He is a speedy sort from the family of the French 2,000 guineas winner and won a top bumper by 13 lengths in Fairyhouse when trained by Antrim-based Ian Ferguson. He has since joined Nicky Henderson and his owners turned down a €100,000 offer from Gigginstown for the horse. Still only a five year old, he won a maiden hurdle easily at odds of 1/5. Last time out he was unlucky to meet a really useful sort in Fingal Bay. Philip Hobbs is on record as stating “Fingal Bay may the best horse I have ever trained”. Hobbs of course also trained Rooster Booster, the 167 rated grey who won a Champion Hurdle. Simonsig may act better on goodish ground over 2 miles 4 furlongs and may run next in the Challow Hurdle at Newbury. Nicky Henderson thinks very highly of this gelding and he can be confidently followed throughout the season.

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