Why Sunday's Colin Parker could be a race to savour at Carlisle

Lostintranslation went on to win the Betfair Chase after reappearing in last year's Colin Parker at Carlisle.
Lostintranslation went on to win the Betfair Chase after reappearing in last year's Colin Parker at Carlisle.

Nick Seddon takes a look at Sunday’s Colin Parker Memorial Intermediate Chase at Carlisle, which is building quite the habit of producing an excellent second season chaser or two to follow…

While we’ve learned by now that the pathways to becoming a Cheltenham Festival winner are wide and varied, there are certain routes which are more favoured than others when it comes to testing the credentials of a future star. 

One such race which is building a reputation for being a building block to bigger and better things is Sunday’s listed Colin Parker Intermediate Chase at Carlisle (Carlisle 14:40), which boasts a striking recent roll of honour. 

Carlisle’s stiff and undulating National Hunt track has long been viewed by trainers as an excellent place to educate a burgeoning star of the future, and the trend of using the Colin Parker as a stepping stone could perhaps be traced back to around 2006, when the subsequent Grade 1 winner Monet’s Garden was a two and a half length winner for Nicky Richards. 

Monet’s Garden was quickly followed up to Cumbria by the likes of L’Antarqiue (2007), Tidal Bay and Albertas Run (both 2008) - prompting the course to double the prize money on offer for the contest - and since its upgrade to listed status in 2013, the two and a half mile contest hasn’t looked back.  

Indeed, the results speak for themselves, and since 2013, two winners of the race have gone on to win at the highest level, Waiting Patiently (2017) and Lostintranslation (2019), while we’ve also seen a subsequent Charlie Hall winner in Cloudy Too (2013) and a future Grand National winner in Many Clouds (2014) during that time. 

Subsequent success isn’t just limited to the winners, either, and each of Bristol De Mai, Happy Diva and Cyrname have all gone on to bigger and better things after running in the Colin Parker. With that in mind, we’ve taken a look at the 12 entries for this year’s renewal at the five-day stage to see if there are any stars of the future lurking. 

Several Graded performers lurk amongst the 12 entries, though the standout name in terms of achievement to date is the Evan Williams-trained Esprit Du Large, who won the Grade 1 Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown last December. He will have to carry a 6 lb penalty here for that success, and we’ve seen him just once since, falling late on when held in the Arkle Trophy in March. He will likely appreciate the return to two and a half miles here, and it would be no surprise should the Ryanair Chase be on his radar later in the year. 

Like Espirit Du Large, Sam Brown would also have to shoulder a penalty if lining up, having won the Grade 2 Altcar Novices' Chase at Haydock Park in January. That run came in heavy conditions, and while he was pulled-up in the following month's Reynoldstown at Ascot, his future looks likely to be over further. 

Another who ran in the Altcar was Windsor Avenue, who was a faller at Haydock that day and will look to get back on track on his first start since here, while both Black Op and Ardlethen showed some smart form to finish second in Grade 2 company last term - but could well need further to be seen to best effect. 

Each of Aye Right, Vision Des Flos and Master Tommytucker have already run so far this season, with the last-named finishing second behind Al Dancer at Newton Abbot earlier this month. That was a more accomplished round of jumping from a horse who has proven to be rather all-or-nothing so far over fences, and Paul Nicholls will undoubtedly find some good opportunities for him this campaign. 

Another to note in a hot-looking renewal is Wholestone, who hasn't been since winning a novice event at last year's November Meeting at Cheltenham, while Brewin'upastorm was last seen unseating his rider just as things were beginning to heat up in the Arkle. Finally, Highest Sun was a commendable seventh in the now defunct Novices' Handicap Chase at the Festival, though far more interesting is the winner that day, Imperial Aura

That three and a quarter length success appeared to be the performance of a Graded performer who was lurking in a handicap, and it will certainly be interesting to see how the seven-year-old is campaigned by the Kim Bailey team this year.

He'll have to carry 4 lb here by virtue of that listed success, but that Festival form has worked out well since, with the runner-up Galvin winning at last week's Showcase Meeting. There ought to be more to come from Imperial Aura yet after just four starts to date over fences, and he could well be the one that they all have to beat. 

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