Ballyandy – A Future Star

November 15th, 2015 | Marten's Current Racing Diary

Well it was always going to be an intriguing weekend and lovers of the game were not left disappointed, with a little shock on Sunday to keep us on our toes.

Starting with the defeat at 1/6 of Faugheen in the Morgiana Hurdle, this was for me an example of how not being too close to the action can sometimes work out in your favour. I made out a strong case for Nichols Canyon in my PCS summary and on the line, arguing that this exceptionally tough winner of four Grade 1 races last season – and a high-class performer before that on the Flat – was underrated. Also, mindful that Faugheen had a history of back problems, I took the view that this could be the day to take the Champion Hurdle winner on.

As it turned out I was right, but had I known beforehand about the work the two horses had done on Tuesday I would not have been so bold. “Faugheen left Nichols Canyon for dead,” said Mullins in a post-race interview with ATR’s Gary O’Brien, while the proximity of Wicklow Brave – just over a length behind Faugheen in third – would suggest that the favourite ran below his best.

I did not like the way Faugheen carried his head after the last and Ruby Walsh added that the horse was trying to hang most of the way round. I expect something physical to come to light, and the hope must be that it is nothing too serious.

By the way this result is a quiet pointer to the claims of Windsor Park, who beat Nichols Canyon by five lengths in last year’s Neptune Investment Novices’ Hurdle. It will be interesting to learn what plans Dermot Weld has for him in the first half of the season.

Just a few moments earlier Cheltenham witnessed the biggest cheer of the day with the return to winning form of Sprinter Sacre.

Nicky Henderson and those close to the horse had suggested beforehand that the nine-year-old had been giving all the right signs at home, but the sceptics – and I was one – preferred to cling to the old maxim that ‘they never come back’. It is a matter of public record that Sprinter Sacre has had issues with his wind, heart and broken blood vessels and even when Nico de Boinville allowed him to stride clear from the fourth last I still expected him to fold up tamely on the run to the line.

However on this occasion the horse actually stretched further clear, to beat the reliable Somersby – rated just 3lb inferior these days – by 14 lengths. In receipt of weight, including 10lb from Mr Mole, Sprinter Sacre is still a long way adrift of the lofty heights of the spring of 2013, when he was rated 188, but his mark will rise back to the high 170s for this and the Tingle Creek, his probable next target, will tell us more.

Those who have followed this feature may have spotted Kayf Blanco – a horse I brought to your attention after seeing him run a nice race at Wetherby last month – pop up back at the track on Saturday. I love the way this horse travels through a race and I expect to see him handle a step up in grade, with the Gerry Fielden the possible next target.

We saw another useful son of Kayf Tara win the closing bumper at Cheltenham today. Ballyandy, a full brother to Megastar, is out of a mare by Karinga Bay so he has done exceptionally well to win two bumpers at two miles.

He could be very special when stepped up in trip over fences, but that is obviously some way off. His trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies says the horse has schooled well, but may not be sent jumping until next season.

Bye for now