Early notebook entry from the Donn

Farges worth following

Fair play to Tidal Bay for putting it all together in the Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown last Saturday, and fair play to Paul Nicholls for finding racing conditions that suited the old monkey and for engaging, no doubt, in a blend of cajoling and honing and coercing that facilitated Saturday’s performance.

First Champion Hurdles and first Grand Nationals and seventh King Georges and fourth World Hurdles are all very fine, but Nicholls’s skills as a trainer were probably more in evidence in Tidal Bay’s performance on the last day of the season than they had been on any of the other previous 364.

With an eye on the future as opposed to the past, however, Roalco De Farges was probably the most interesting horse in the race. The son of Dom Alco had been on the go for a while, on the last day of a season that had lasted over six months and eight races for him, and he made a fairly significant mistake at the second fence down the back straight final time just as the pace was increasing, yet he still took it up on the run to the third last travelling well, and he would have been an impressive winner of the race but for the presence of the (in hindsight) really well-handicapped winner.

Philip Hobbs’s horse is only seven, he has raced just seven times now over fences, and he has massive scope for progression as a staying chaser next term. The handicapper has raised him just 2lb for this performance, which looks lenient in the extreme.

The Welsh National has been mentioned as a possible target next term, and that makes a lot of sense. His new mark of 136 would see him get into that race in a normal year in the low 10sts. He has won twice at Chepstow, he proved on Saturday that he can handle soft ground and that he can stay the Welsh National trip, and he should be an even stronger horse in seven months’ time.

The Welsh National is a race for young progressive horses – the last eight winners have been eight or younger – with seven-year-olds winning four of those eight (Synchronised was technically eight, but the 2010 renewal was run in January 2011). Hobbs won the Welsh National with Dream Alliance in 2009, who prepped for the race by running well in a three-mile handicap hurdle at Chepstow seven weeks previously, and it wouldn’t be at all surprising if Roalco De Farges were to follow a similar route.