3 days of top quality action from Merseyside now in the form-book and as usual it was a rollercoaster ride! Some good memories and some not so good memories to take away but I’m not going to dwell on that side of things, it has been mentioned in numerous other avenues and I want to concentrate, as always, on the racing side of things.
Here are my NTF 3 to follow from the 2012 Aintree Grand National Festival -
ZARZAL (E Williams) – Thursday – 2.30 Aintree – 5th in the 2m Grade 1 Juvenile Hurdle
It is clear the front 2 in this race are very classy individuals indeed, however, on watching the race again it was the run of 66/1 shot Zarzal from out the back that mainly caught my attention. The Dr Fong gelding was having only his 2nd hurdle start and considering his first was in the Grade 2 Dovecote hurdle we can assume trainer Evan Williams has a very high opinion of this one. This burly looking individual never jumped with a huge amount of fluency but given this was a Grade 1 contest, and he didn’t have the experience of the others, we maybe shouldn’t be too hard on that aspect of his game and this run is sure to have sharpen up his hurdling technique. He travelled smoothly between his hurdles and when jockey Paul Moloney asked him to take closer order the 4yo responded in fine style. He stayed on stoutly to the line and to finish only just over a length behind the 143 rated Sadler’s Risk is certainly no disgrace. He may well jump a fence one day but in the nearer future he surely must have a race or 2 at a lower level well within his compass.
Zarzal Dosage figures – 2-3-13-1-1 (20+) | 20 | 1.35 | 0.20
His Dosage figures indicate that he should easily manage further with time.
Zarzal ideal conditions - Early days yet but it could be a slightly more testing track will be better for him
SAPHIR RIVER (M Scudamore) – Thursday – 4.50 Aintree – 4th in the 2m4f Listed Handicap Hurdle
The Grey, who was having only his 2nd start for Michael Scudamore, was given a typically patience ride by Paul Carberry, creeping into the race from some way off the pace. He travelled to near the head of the pack with ease 3 out but ultimately found things happening a shade too quick upfront for him. I have a feeling this may have been a bit of an ‘educational’ ride for the grey; teaching him the ins and outs of UK racing without getting overly serious on him and a bit of a confidence restorer after his early unseating on his UK debut in the Coral Cup at Cheltenham. He was also entered in the Grade 1 Aintree Hurdle on Saturday and this expensive purchase from France is obviously one that connections have high hopes for. The 6yo has flat form with the high class Byword, was beaten only a nose by Spirit Son in a listed hurdle at Auteuil in 2010 and also has placed form in Grade 3 and Grade 1 hurdle’s from his days with C Lerner in France. All in all this was a very pleasing run and I would expect the Slickly gelding to come on massively for this run. It will be interesting to see how high his sights are aimed for the remainder of the season/next season but one would certainly hope he has a handicap in him off his mark of 139.
Saphir River Dosage figures – 1-2-5-0-0 | 8 | 2.20 | 0.50
His Dosage figures very much hint at speed and a strongly run 2 mile/2m4f contest could be the optimum for him.
Saphir River ideal conditions - His best form in France (flat & jumps) appeared to be very much on soft and heavy ground and it could well be that ground with at least the minimum amount of cut in it will see him operate at his best – trip wise I’m thinking a fast run 2 mile race or 2m4/5 furlong contests
COLOUR SQUADRON (P Hobbs) – Saturday – 1.45 Aintree – Faller in the 2m4f Grade 2 Mersey Novices’ Hurdle
Whilst everyone is raving about Simonsig (and quite rightly so) I’m quite taken by the run of COLOUR SQUADRON who fell 3 out when just getting ready to mount his challenge. I doubt he would have given the winner much of a scare but there is every reason to believe he would have secured 2nd place with a clear round. He was stepping up to 2m4f for the first time here and the way he travelled into contention from out the back very much suggested this sort of trip is well within his compass. He is clearly a talented individual, albeit one with a few quirks to his nature, but J P McManus obviously liked something about the horse as he purchased him just before he ran in the Supreme Novices’ at Cheltenham. My feeling is they will send the Old Vic gelding chasing next term and he strikes me as one that will be a force over fences at trips of 2m4f and further. He’s does not always look the most natural of hurdlers but that does not mean he won’t take to the larger obstacles; he certainly has the physique and pedigree to jump fences. After 2 falls from his last 3 starts it would not surprise me if he is put away for the remainder of the season, however, should he take to the track before his summer holidays I would possibly be interested in him if he were to be running back at this 2m4/5f trip.
Colour Squadron Dosage figures – 2-0-10-4-0 | 16 | 0.78 | 0.00
His Dosage figures suggest that he will be better over further than the 2 miles he has been running over and trips of 2m4f and further will probably see plenty of improvement in him.
Colour Squadron ideal conditions - 2m4f+ on ground that is Good to Soft or Soft (Heavy may also be OK)
Outwith the Aintree winners which 3 horses caught your eye the most with a view to next season?
Which ‘losers’ should we look out for with the rest of the season in mind?
Drop me a comment below with your biggest eye-catcher from the Aintree Grand National Festival 2012.
ps. I’m currently preparing some FREE NTF flat guides that will be sent out to members of the FREE NTF list. To make sure you also get the FREE guides simply pop your name and email address in the form at the top right of the site.