Naughton’s notebook: 25-1 chance looks Rock solid
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Alan King's charge landed some good bets for the notebook when stepped up in trip in the Grade 2 Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle at Haydock on Saturday.
True, the gelding's hurdling technique needs a bit of work but he might jump better when racing at a faster pace, although winning jockey Wayne Hutchinson admitted hurdles are a hindrance to this future chaser.
Still, I've rarely seen a horse travel so sweetly in such testing ground against strong opposition at this unforgiving course and the speedy six-year-old should have no trouble dropping back to 2m 5f in the NeptuneInvestment Management Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham, if he brushes up his jumping.
He'll certainly be flying up the hill having proved his stamina here and is 25-1 in some places.
The Flat recruit travelled powerfully for most of the slowly-run 2m 5f novices' hurdle when third at Market Rasen on his jumping debut for John Ferguson on Sunday.
The Cesarewitch winner for David Simcock in 2009, the seven-year-old had been gelded since finishing down the field in the November Handicap. Settled in mid-division, the stoutly-bred son of Tiger Hill jumped smoothly and was still pulling two out, but lost a lot of momentum with a slow leap at the last.
Denis O'Regan realised all winning chance had quickly disappeared but his mount ran on encouragingly close home and connnections should be very satisfied with such a promising debut. Ferguson saddled Cotton Mill to finish third in the 3m Sefton Novices' Hurdle at Aintree last season and Darley Sun could exploit his impressive cruising speed and staying power in that Grade 1.
I interviewed the Newmarket trainer on Racing UK at Wetherby on Tuesday and he confirmed his delight at the jumping debut.
Alpha Tauri was heavily backed in the six-furlong handicap at Southwell last Wednesday but was involved in a suicidal early dual with Point North.
Not surprisingly, the front two were exhausted in the final furlong but I'd be willing to give Alpha Tauri another chance at his favourite course (all four wins at Southwell) when ridden prominently, but at an even tempo.
He will be fitter for this first start in 90 days and remains well handicapped off a 5lbs lower mark than when second at Southwell in July.