Jumps Eye-Catchers: Allart looks a future star for Henderson

Nicky Henderson could have a Cheltenham Festival contender in Allart.
Nicky Henderson could have a Cheltenham Festival contender in Allart.

Nick Seddon reviews the weekend’s Jumps action at Ascot and Haydock, and picks out three eye-catchers to note - including one horse who he thinks could be worth backing at next year's Cheltenham Festival…

Allart  - Nicky Henderson (Ascot 15:05, Friday)

Friday's feature at Ascot was the Grade 2 Noel Novices' Chase over two miles and three furlongs, a race which last produced a Cheltenham Festival winner with Simonsig in 2012, and the same owners could have another smart one this season with Allart - who impressed with his effort to win on chasing debut. It's unusual for a horse to make his chasing bow at such a high level, but Allart was a smart novice over timber last year, finishing fifth in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, and it's testament to the regard that he's clearly held in by the yard that he started here.

He very much learned on the job under an excellent educational ride from Nico de Boinville, and although he didn't always convince with his jumping in the early stages of the race, he improved as proceedings wore on, and travelled comfortably throughout. Producing an excellent jump at the final fence, it was impressive how Allart was able to pull away from a smart performer in Fiddlerontheroof in the closing stages, and he deserves plenty of credit for conceding experience to an up-to-scratch field for this level. The step up to two miles and three furlongs seemed to suit Allart, and the Marsh Novices' Chase looks as though it will be his likely target this spring, for all that he's certainly worth a try at three miles at some point in the future. The presence of the imperious-looking Envoi Allen in the ante-post picture for that race means that plenty may head elsewhere, but the Marsh appeals as a good fit for Allart, and bearing in mind that he's open to plenty of improvement yet over fences, he could be worth a small investment each-way at around the 16/1 mark.

Marsh Novices' Chase
Allart silk

Allart (EW)

Cheltenham Festival Races

The Conditional  - David Bridgwater (Ascot 15:00, Saturday)

Saturday's card as Ascot included a typically competitive renewal of the Silver Cup, and while he ultimately fell just short for win purposes, The Conditional impressed once again with his fine effort to finish second behind Mister Malarky. An ultra-game winner of last season's Ultima Handicap at the Festival, The Conditional was a commendable third off a revised mark on reappearance in last month's Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury, and he shaped well here, too, losing nothing in defeat in finding a stamina-laden rival too tough a nut to crack in the closing stages.

A huge improver last season, there still looks to be plenty of room for manoeuvre for The Conditional off this kind of mark, and he'll continue to hold his own in valuable staying handicaps for the David Bridgwater team this season - after being raised 3 lb for this by the handicapper. It would be no surprise should the Grand National be on his radar in April, but this ultra likeable eight-year-old could also have the Ultima in his sights once again, too, and it would be disappointing if this consistent type isn't able to scoop a valuable pot between now and the end of the season. 

Cheltenham Gold Cup

Queenohearts  - Stuart Edmunds (Haydock 15:15, Saturday)

Along with the racing at Ascot, there was also an excellent card up at Haydock, and it was difficult not to be taken with Queenohearts, who defied a 646-day absence to make a winning return in the final race on the schedule, a competitive-looking staying handicap hurdle over three miles. Stuart Edmunds' seven-year-old was a useful type when last seen in the 2018-19 campaign as a novice, winning a Grade 2 event for mares at Sandown, and she certainly-looked well-treated off her opening mark of 132, travelling into the race well and showing a good attitude to see off a pretty useful yardstick in the form of the veteran Clyne.

She's been raised 5 lb for that by the assessor, but there looks to be plenty of room for improvement in this sphere bearing mind that this was her first attempt over further than two and a half miles, and she saw out the trip well in typically attritional conditions in the North West. It will be interesting to see where she heads next, but she's an exciting prospect, and it would be no surprise if she pops up in a qualifier for the Pertemps Final in the next six weeks or so - with races scheduled at Warwick (16/01), Huntingdon (29/01) and Musselburgh (07/02) in the New Year. 

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