Horses in focus - the beginning of a bounce back?

Last Updated: 03.11.2021

Wednesday, 3rd November 2021

Horses in focus - the beginning of a bounce back?

Go back to March 2019….

Glen Forsa – trained by Mick Channon – headed into the G1 Arkle a well-fancied horse….

A month earlier he’d given a beating to highly-rated Kalashnikov at Sandown in the G2 Kingmaker Novices’ Chase….

That one of Amy Murphy’s was rated 152. Glen Forsa was on 138….

They met on levels. Glen Forsa beat him 19-lengths – putting in a fine round of jumping and finishing off in the manner of a very good horse….

Perhaps the runner-up wasn’t quite on song. But you couldn’t knock the winner. He did it well – and he turned up at Cheltenham with a three from three record over fences and a 150 rating….

He looked every inch a young chaser going places….

  • What happened next.... 

He was stepping back in trip for the Arkle – having previously won over 3m at Chepstow and over the extended 2m4f trip at Kempton….

It didn’t work out. He unseated at the 4th fence having been sent off 2nd favourite at 9/2….

These things happen and it to Aintree next for the G1 Manifesto – over 2m again….

He bashed into the running rail as he left the parade ring and had to be passed fit to race. Not ideal…

It didn’t seem to bother him though. He went well until his jumping let him down again 5 from home. He was never going afterwards and pulled up quickly….

His old sparring partner Kalashnikov won the race – underlining the strength of that Sandown form 7-weeks earlier….

  • Then something went wrong.... 

Heading into the 19/20 jumps season Mick Channon would have been clapping his hands….

He’d have been thinking he had a potential star chaser in his yard – and dreaming about the possibilities….

First time up at Newbury the horse added fuel to the fire – showing up well behind Oldgrangewood and Kalashnikov in a decent 2m4f handicap in which he was beaten just 2.75 lengths….

As far as RPRs are concerned it ranked a career-best performance. And it gave the impression this horse could do winning business off 150. The handicapper agreed. He put the horse up 4lbs in defeat. Connections wouldn’t have been happy….

But something else had gone wrong. Either in the race or shortly afterwards. Glen Forsa wasn’t seen on the track for almost a year….

And when he turned out for the 2020 edition of the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter he struggled, dropped away tamely, and fell when out the back….

  • And then the wheels came off.... 

It was the start of a miserable sequence. The horse performed well under par in each of his next four runs….

He was beaten an aggregate of 115.5 lengths in three of those and pulled up in the other….

They tried wind surgery and they tried freshening him up with a break midway through the sequence….

David Bass, Harry Skelton, Tom Scudamore, and Jonathan Burke (who’d had the ride for his first six goes over fences) all had a go. None of  it did any good….

Between the Exeter race and pulling up in the Topham at Aintree in the April he dropped from a mark of 154 to 143….

And the Aintree performance only encouraged the official handicapper to lower the bar further still. Glen Forsa started this campaign on just 137….

It had been some fall from grace. A one-time fancy for the premier novice G1 over 2m had dropped to a level in keeping with journeyman status….

It happens. But it doesn’t always mean it’s all over. Hitting bottom can be the starting point for a big bounce back….

  • A big bounce back? 

We’ll never know exactly how the change came about or why but in late October Glen Forsa moved from Mick Channon to Charlie Longsdon….

A fresh environment…. a different routine…. different food…. different bedding…. different staff…. a different outlook. It can all make an enormous difference and serve to revitalize a horse that’s lost its mojo….

And it was interesting ahead of last weekend to hear Charlie Longsdon talk so positively about his new charge….

He spoke about how Glen Forsa might need further than 2m now he’s getting older. He referenced Glen Forsa’s 3m win at Chepstow on chase debut and expressed the hope that stepping up might just slow everything down enough for the horse to rediscover a higher level of form….

He raised the possibility of Glen Forsa running in the Ladbrokes Trophy and went as far as to highlight Grand National aspirations for the horse. Heady stuff indeed….

But it was to Ascot first – and Saturday’s Bateaux London Gold Cup – to see if the horse would stay the 3m trip. I can’t imagine connections were disappointed with how it turned out….

In a first-time tongue tie, Glen Forsa set off like Jack Rabbit and made a bold bid from the front under Gavin Sheehan. He was miles ahead at one stage….

I thought he’d gone too fast. Maybe he did. But he wasn’t headed until 2 out and – crucially – he didn’t wilt. He stayed on nicely. He kept to his work. He was 4th and beaten 10 lengths by the winner at the line but – all things taken together – it was an encouraging return to action….

Assuming he comes out of the race okay Glen Forsa has surely got to be winning something this term….

He’s gone down a pound to 136 for Saturday’s race (bonus!) – and he’s 18lbs shy of his peak chase rating….

And consider this – he’s 7lbs below his hurdle mark! Wow! He’s so well handicapped over fences right now that he’s simply got to be banking prize money in handicaps this term….

We’ll keep an eye on Glen Forsa. He’s turned a corner – and he’s a winner in waiting….

  • The final word….

That’s all for today. Back tomorrow. Meanwhile….

Anything to report? Anything to say? Anything to share? Contact me at: nick.pullen@oxonpress.co.uk

Stay tuned.

Nick Pullen

Against the Crowd