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Blackbow (Timeform rating c146p)
Willie Mullins has saddled seven debut winners over fences since the beginning of October, a sign of the strength in depth he possesses in the novice chasing ranks this season. Four of that group were successful in Ireland in recent days, including Energumene (c148p), Janidil (c145p) and Yukon Lil (c135p), all of whom are open to more improvement.
However, the one who arguably created the best impression is Blackbow, who looked a natural over the larger obstacles when continuing Mullins’ domination of the beginners’ chase at Navan on Sunday. Always travelling strongly at the head of affairs, he jumped well in the main and quickly asserted after an impressive leap at the last, just needing to be pushed out to win by four and a quarter lengths.
Blackbow may have been frustrating over hurdles last season – all four of his defeats came at odds-on – but this performance didn’t come completely out of the blue as he won a Grade 2 bumper in 2018 and possesses the physique of a chaser.
This was certainly a most encouraging start, and the ‘p’ attached to his Timeform rating denotes that he likely to have even more to offer.
He looks overpriced for the Arkle.
Ferny Hollow (Timeform rating h137P)
Willie Mullins also unleashed a few exciting prospects in the novice hurdling ranks over the weekend, headed by the first two from last season’s Champion Bumper, Ferny Hollow and Appreciate It.
The latter barely needed to come off the bridle to justify odds of 12/1-on at Cork on Sunday, but there was more substance to what Ferny Hollow achieved when making a winning hurdling debut on Friday’s card at Gowran Park, beating another good prospect in Bob Olinger by a length.
The pair dominated the betting and always occupied the first two places in the race itself, quickly putting more daylight between themselves and the chasing pack when the pace lifted three out. Bob Olinger still held a narrow advantage at the last, but Ferny Hollow showed all his class to assert soon afterwards, just needing to be pushed out by Paul Townend.
The form of last season’s Champion Bumper is already proving exceptionally strong, and Ferny Hollow showed enough here to suggest he can make an impact at Grade 1 level over hurdles, with the large ‘P’ attached to his Timeform rating denoting that he is open to significant progress.
Chantry House (Timeform rating c142p)
There were less fireworks in the novice chasing ranks in Britain over the weekend, but we did see at least one smart prospect in Chantry House, who justified his prohibitive odds with the minimum of fuss at Ascot on Friday.
Chantry House developed into a useful hurdler last season, culminating with a fine third behind stablemate Shishkin in the Supreme at the Cheltenham Festival, but it’s understandable that his connections wasted no time embarking on a chasing career given his physique (tall gelding) and background (won his sole start in points).
Raced exclusively at two miles over hurdles, he was stepped up two furlongs in trip on chasing debut, though it wasn’t much of a test of stamina given how the race developed. Pic d’Orhy set only a fair gallop and Chantry House was left with a straightforward task when that rival departed three out, just needing to be kept up to his work to draw clear in the straight.
Most encouraging was the way Chantry House jumped in the closing stages, looking more comfortable when the tempo lifted than he did earlier in the race. He’ll have no problem staying two and a half miles and should take high rank amongst the British-trained novice chasers, with the Marsh appealing as a suitable end-of-season target.
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