Racing UK

Bell: Southside’s form can go North

(You can read Oli Bell's Three For Free column every Monday)

I think it is fair to say that last week was one of the more eventful weeks I’ve had during my time at Racing UK. It started with the annual pre-Cheltenham press visit to Nicky Henderson’s yard. It’s a privilege to be able to get so close to the best horses and you can’t help but be in awe of the talent the Seven Barrows handler has at his disposal. It would be a brave man who bets against him recording a 50th Festival winner in 2013.

After Lambourn I headed down the A303 to visit Harry Fry at his Seaborough home. Our cameras were able to film Opening Batsman having his final schooling session before the Racing Plus Chase.

He looked a picture in the build-up and credit must go to Harry and his team, who had him spot on for the big occasion. I have no doubt that Rock On Ruby, the stable star and defending Champion Hurdler, will turn up at Cheltenham in the same condition next month.

After the cameras stopped rolling at Harry’s we headed to rising star of the weighing room Nick Scholfield’s home for a Racing UK Cheltenham challenge. I won’t ruin the surprise but it involved baking a cake. No doubt it will make for amusing viewing, unless of course you are me or Nick, in which case it may be a case of hiding behind the sofa.

The icing on the cake (boom boom!) came on Saturday when Ruby Walsh dropped by the Racing UK studio for a special edition of Mark Your Card. The Allwood family were also present after winning a tour of the studio during our Christmas giveaway on MYC. After the show we all headed over to Kempton where Ruby rode a double, the Allwood’s backed a few winners and as for me, my car broke down on the way out.

Keep your eyecatchers coming in on Twitter using the #threeforfree hashtag and hopefully by now your NagMe stable is building up nicely just in time for Cheltenham and Aintree.  

A Southside Boy - Ran fourth at Wetherby on February 19: Watch Racing UK on Sky 432 Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle

We begin this week with a horse that has had 15 career starts for only one win. It may not fill you with confidence but I have a feeling the run-to-win ratio will improve to coincide with this horse finding his trip.

This season saw Jim Goldie’s five-year-old switch from the flat to jumps. In truth it was a fairly uninspiring career on the level, earning a mark of 53 from 11 runs.

Three starts over hurdles saw A Southside Boy beaten by an aggregate total of nearly 130 lengths, which earned him a lowly rating of 79 for those efforts. Your confidence-o-meter is probably yet to have moved so far with this horse.

But don’t panic because on handicap debut A Southside Boy showed much improved form to run an eyecatching fourth staying on best over an extended two miles at Wetherby. And now, thankfully, the confidence-o-meter starts to move upwards.  Goldie’s charge is yet to try 2m 4f but that could be the making of him and is the next obvious step.

It is important to stress that we are not dealing with a horse possessing bags of natural talent but on the evidence of his run this week he’s a low-grade handicapper ready to capitalise on a low mark.

Prince Buster - ran fourth at Huntingdon on February 21: John Bigg Oxo Handicap Chase

The market expected a big run from Prince Buster with good money coming for him in the build-up to the race. It looked for most of the 2m 4f trip that Tom Symonds’s ten-year-old was going to deliver the goods but after attempting to make all and making an error at the second last Prince Buster eventually finished a well beaten fourth.

Sadly this horse is still a maiden from 15 attempts but were it not for injuries and setbacks this would almost certainly not be the case. It’s been very much a stop-start career, running once in 2007, once in 2009, twice in 2010 and twice in 2011.

The good news is that in recent years he has been able to run with more regularity, running six times in 2012 and three times so far in 2013. It seems his frailties are less of a concern now and he has finally overcome the issues that halted his career early on.

Personally, I would like to see this horse drop back in trip and sent over a tough two miles. He wasn’t lasting home at Huntingdon and a quick glance at his form over the minimum trip makes for decent reading. His first start over hurdles came in 2009 over 2m1f, where he finished second to the talented Bellvano.

His best run at the trip came on his third start over hurdles. Prince Buster finished third in a very decent novice hurdle event at Ascot over 2m. Lush Life, trained by Nicky Henderson, was victorious that day and Menorah, who went on to win the Supreme Novices’ at the Festival the following start, was second.

Prince Buster was only eight lengths behind Menorah at close of play and had he settled better early on he may well have finished even closer.

It’s important to bear that in mind because recently, albeit over longer, Prince Buster has settled better and the youthful exuberance he showed early on should be out of his system now.

Morito Du Berlais - Third at Sandown on February 22: Hampton Court Standard Open NH Flat Race

The bumper at Sandown on Friday saw a great finish between Doctor Harper and The Clock Leary. We also saw a very pleasing debut run in third from Morito Du Berlais, trained by Paul Nicholls.

He was very green in the preliminaries and unsurprisingly was green early on during the run but when the penny dropped Morito Du Berlais looked like a horse with a big future.

On paper it looked like a hot bumper with all the big yards represented. When I spoke to Ruby Walsh in the studio on Saturday he was very complimentary about the start this horse made to his career.

I can’t pretend this is the bravest #threeforfree selection as most would have marked him down as an eyecatcher after his run but he is worth keeping as a long term project. It’s always satisfying if you see a horse develop through the ranks from early on and I expect Morito Du Berlais to reach a good level.

He will need to grow up and overcome the immaturity he showed before the Sandown contest but that will improve with time and shouldn’t be too much of a concern. It’s certainly nothing to panic about at this stage of his development.

(You can follow Oli Bell on Twitter)

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