Usually at this point of the jumps season most of the juveniles have made the switch; had a run or two over hurdles, and if good enough are being targeted at the Triumph Hurdle or the Fred Winter at Cheltenham.
However, there are always the odd few that arrive late to the party for one reason or another. And today there’s a couple of interesting newcomers on either side of the Irish Sea.
Charles Byrnes knows a thing or two about training hurdlers. Solwhit was the yard’s flag-bearer for almost half a dozen years, winning the Irish Champion Hurdle, the Aintree Hurdle and his career culminating with success in the World Hurdle at Cheltenham. In 23 starts over timber, he was only out of the first two on three occasions. His career earnings were just shy of £900,000. It was such a blow when he died all too soon whilst schooling at Tipperary in November 2014.
His latest newcomer runs in the opening maiden hurdle at Thurles. Cilento was trained on the flat by John Gosden, and running in Godolphin’s famous blue silks. He’s a powerful looking unit, and was last seen in a Class 4 handicap at Newmarket during the summer and was rated in the 80’s having previously won a handicap at Ascot. He’s a son of Raven’s Pass out of a Simon Du Desert mare. His sire doesn’t necessarily instil confidence in a smooth transition from flat to jumps, but the dam’s side gives more hope for optimism.
Simon Du Desert has been part of a number of decent National Hunt horses, including the classy French hurdler Good Bye Simon. Further back on the dam’s side of the pedigree we have a reliable National Hunt sire Kaldoun, and he was responsible for the likes of Spadoun and Smadoun, also familiar names among the jumping ranks. The latter is of course the sire of Smad Place.
Cilento will be taking on Aidan O’Brien’s Cradle Mountain among others. By Mastercraftsman, he was rated in the 90’s on the flat and impressed when a fine third at Fairyhouse on his hurdles debut in January.
If Byrnes’ gelding is a less certain fit to the jump racing fraternity, then at Bangor Venetia Williams appears to have a filly more likely to make a seamless transition. Live Miracle is another French import, and was classy enough to be mixing it with the likes of Sea Calisi on the flat at Lyon. That filly only just missed out on winning the Group 1 Yorkshire Oaks in the summer.
Venetia’s four-year-old is by Falco, the same sire as Peace And Co, and is out of a Trempolino mare. She was running over middle distance trips on the flat and her pedigree suggests she’ll adapt to obstacles. She’s thrown in against the boys at Bangor and it’s a competitive enough looking starting point. There’s sure to be improvement for both the experience and the run, especially as her last appearance was back in June.
Today will give clues as to her potential, and with Cheltenham adding a mares’ novice hurdle to the Festival schedule there is now greater incentive for investing in likeable fillies.
Let’s hope Bangor gets the green light and along with the meeting at Thurles we get the chance to see these youngsters in action. There’s still time for one or two juveniles to announce themselves on the scene, with the big spring festivals just around the corner.