Cheltenham Festival winner City Island is likely to start a career over fences in the autumn, his trainer Martin Brassil has revealed.
The six-year-old enjoyed his finest hour back in March when running an out the impressive winner of the Grade 1 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle over 2m 5f at Prestbury Park.
Jockey Mark Walsh gave him a highly confident ride to overcome trouble in-running to stretch clear on the run-in and beat Champ by two lengths.
The runner-up is a very highly regarded sort trained by Nicky Henderson who went on to land a Grade 1 at the Aintree Grand National Festival in impressive fashion and is considered a furtyre Cheltenham Gold Cup prospect by the man he is named after – legendary 20-times Champion Jumps Jockey Sir Anthony McCoy.
Brewin’upastorm, who finished nearly four lengths further behind in fourth, also ran well to finish a close up third in a Grade 1 at Aintree to Reserve Tank.
That gives the forma rock solid look and although City Island finished a disappointing sixth of 11 to Reserve Tank in a Grade 1 at the Punchestown Festival, that race may well have come too quick following his exploits at Cheltenham.
The son of Court Cave remains a hugely exciting prospect going forward and his handler is no strainer to big race successes having saddled Numbersixvalverde to win the Grand National in 2006 and trained dual Grade 1 winner Nickname.
Trip the Key to Future
City Island is still on his summer break, but is due to return to training in the coming weeks.
Speaking on Racing TV after saddling a winner at Sligo, Brassil said: “City Island is enjoying his summer break and will be back in a few weeks.
“I schooled him over fences before he went out, and we were happy enough with what we saw. “I’d say, more than likely, he will go chasing.”
There are several options for City Island at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival should all go to plan over the larger obstacles.
History suggests, however, that the most likely Grade 1 targets are the Arkle over the minimum trip of 2m or JLT Novices Chase over 2m 4f.
Simonsig won the former in 2013 after landing the Ballymore, whilst the fifth home in the 2018 running of the Ballymore – Duc Duc Des Genievres – went on to win the Arkle at this year’s Cheltenham Festival.
City Island is a top priced 14/1 with bet365 for the Arkle, but it’s worth bearing in mind the comments made by Walsh in his post race interview after the Ballymore.
He said: “I don’t think he’s quick enough for a Champion Hurdle, but he will definitely stay three miles and I can see him being a possible Stayers’ Hurdle type. He’s a chaser for the future”.
Stayer with a Turn of Foot
Given that the Arkle is run over the same trip as the Champion Hurdle, I think it’s fair to assume that connections believe his future lies over further.
The 2m 4f trip of the JLT looks tailor-made for City Island as he is a strong traveller with a potent turn of foot.
It’s a contest for which staying power and a turn of foot are the ideal attributes p- and City Island possesses both.
Yorkhill was a similar type and landed the Ballymore/JLT double in 2015/16 for all-conquering Irish trainer Willie Mullins.
City Island, who is a lightly-raced sort who has now won four of his seven starts under rules, is also versatile as regards ground and open to plenty more progress.
!0bet make him a 14/1 chance in their ante post betting for the 2020 JLT Novices’ Chase and those odds look more than fair judged on his authoritative and mots kaing display in what was a strong renewal of the Ballymore.
I think he is a hugely exciting recruit to the chasing ranks and has the potential to go to the top in that sphere.
There are undoubtedly plenty of nice prizes to be won with City Island en route to the 2020 Cheltenham Festival and he looks a must for anyone’s horses to follow list for the forthcoming 2019/20 season.