Ballyglass looks like an exciting prospect for Toby Lawes to go to war with judged on an excellent British debut at Southwell.
The Montmartre gelding was placed on each of his three starts in Ireland and the form could hardly have worked better – finishing third behind successive hurdle winners Bronn and Howyabud at Ballinrobe and second at Roscommon at The Big Doyen, which has since closed in Punchestown.
The five-year-old had since changed hands for £ 60,000 at the Tattersalls sale in Cheltenham in November, which seems excellent value for money judged by his performance in the Midlands.
Lawes said: “I’m absolutely happy. He’s a really nice guy and very exciting for the future.
“He’s still a pretty raw guy who has a lot of maturation to do, so I’m really happy with that performance today.”
Given his impressive credentials, it was no surprise to see Ballyglass sent off the 3-1 favorite for Off The Fence at youtube.com/attheraces Open Maiden NH Flat Race.
Tom O’Brien’s mount took the lead for a long off-road and was ultimately good value for the three-and-a-quarter margin of victory over Ohnodonttakemehome.
“We were lucky enough to have bought it two days before The Big Doyen went on to win in Punchestown. We probably wouldn’t have been able to afford it if it went to sales later,” added Lawes.
“Sam Curling, who coached him in Ireland, told me he wrapped him in a cotton ball between his last run and the sale, so when we got him his fitness wasn’t quite there.
“We brought him back up and with every piece of work we did with him, he took a step forward every time. He did well in his latest work.”
Ballyglass is likely to be promoted to class at its next start, with Newbury on February 12 as the potential next stop.
However, Lawes isn’t thrilled with a Champion Bumper slant at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
He said: “There is a Listed fender in Newbury, but we’ll see how it comes out of the race.
“In an ideal world you would probably go to Newbury and then Aintree (in April), but the conditions are like we can’t do both because he’s already raced with four fenders.
“If he wanted to do two more races, one of them would probably have to be Champion Bumper and that’s not really a race I want to take him to.
“There is no rush because this boy’s life is clearly ahead of him: he is a true Saturday hunter in the making.”
Elsewhere on the card brothers Dan and Harry Skelton have teamed up to complete a double.
Signal Point justified on par favoritism with a half-length verdict in the free replays at attheraces.com ‘National Hunt’ Maiden Hurdle by Mares.
His teammate, Colonel Manderson (13-8), also took gold as market leader in the Read Kevin Blake On attheraces.com Novices’ Handicap Hurdle, with an eight and a half lengths of margin of victory.