Jumps Notebook 2013/14: Emery chance
Will Hayler is back with the latest instalment of his Notebook feature and he has high hopes for novice chaser Tanerko Emery.
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One of the biggest improvers of last season, Tanerko Emery finished the campaign with a fast-finishing fifth at the Cheltenham Festival that suggested even greater heights could yet be reached.
There were plenty of reasons for thinking that David Pipe's runner might struggle against the speedy Raya Star on his public debut over fences at Uttoxeter last month - he was meeting a rival rated 10lb his superior over hurdles and in a three-runner two-mile contest that failed to put sufficient emphasis upon his staying qualities.
So it is to Tanerko Emery's considerable credit that, despite the race turning into a predictable sprint - circumstances in which Raya Star showed himself particularly effective in Ascot's Ladbroke Hurdle last season - and pitching badly on landing over the last two fences, he went down only narrowly under regular pilot Conor O'Farrell.
It's possible Tanerko Emery is a bit of a character and he'll need to brush up his technique over fences, particularly on the landing side, but this was a hugely promising start and I can't wait to see what Pipe has in mind for him next - a bigger field and faster-run contest can only help.
Testing ground doesn't worry him, but he probably does now want a step up in trip. To refresh your memory, check out this video of him coming from well back (13th turning for home, by my counting) to finish second in the Imperial Cup back in March.
Following the Nicky Richards stable has largely been an expensive business for the last three or four years, but the Greystoke team are in pretty good form at present, as indicated by three winners and a further four seconds from the 13 runners sent out in the last fortnight.
Everyone seemed to know that Simply Ned was going to run well at Ayr on Saturday and the horse didn't disappoint, comfortably beating a fair field of experienced opposition on just his second start as a steeplechaser.
He jumped well and won convincingly and, although he's gone up 8lb in the weights for this, that probably won't be enough to stop him from going in again.
With five wins from 12 starts, he has single-handedly done plenty to help his trainer's strike-rate in the last couple of seasons, but I can see him going on from this, providing that he is found the right opportunity - the decent gallop on Saturday definitely helped him to settle better than has sometimes been the case in the past.
While on the subject of that Ayr meeting, further disappointment was to come for backers of Big Water, already on the Notebook list after his return to action at Wetherby last month.
He was solid in the betting suggesting that connections expected a big run but, although Simply Ned didn't mind the testing conditions that got steadily worse as rain fell throughout the afternoon, once again Big Water completely failed to handle them.
He was still in contention three out and seemingly travelling well but he emptied out quickly once coming under pressure and was allowed to coast home over the last two, finishing a long way down the pack.
Once again the handicapper has refused to take the performance at face value and dropped him only 1lb but as the wretched supermarket advert used to go 'every little helps'. We'll get paid out on him when conditions are right again, although I suspect we might have to wait for the spring now.
Finally, a more speculative name to add to the Notebook list is Lakefield Rebel, bought for the not-inconsiderable sum of 26,000 guineas after winning an Irish point-to-point 18 months ago by Yorkshire permit-holder Harry Hogarth.
Too keen on his belated first start for the stable last month, having dropped right out coming out of the back straight at Wetherby on Friday, he made steady late progress throughout the home straight and was probably never closer to the leaders than at the winning post.
If you're looking for him on the video replay then you won't see him at all between turning for home in a detached last and eventually coming past the winning post in fifth, but the snatches of the head-on footage supplied help further tell the tale.
Make no mistake, this was no softly-softly ride designed to fool the handicapper into underestimating his ability. Richie McGrath was shaking the reins at him and asking questions throughout the last mile of this contest and if he'd been closer to the pace coming out of the back straight, there's no guarantee he would have finished much closer to the winner, Rally, if at all.
Furthermore, the yardstick Fairwood Massini was very tired in third and if the handicapper is tempted to take his proximity to that horse into account when alloting his rating, then I suspect that Lakefield Rebel is going to struggle.
But in the way he kept going when others had cried enough, there were definite signs that this son of Presenting has an engine and he is one to keep an eye on when moved up to three miles on better ground.