Racing: Afsoun hint to Fitzgerald

Two promising Haydock winners may prompt jockey to rethink retirement plans

Two very good reasons for Mick Fitzgerald to rethink his decision to retire at the end of the season emerged at Haydock yesterday. Both are young hurdlers with bright futures and the Irishman, still at the top of his game, may not much enjoy watching others galloping to victory on Afsoun and Amaretto Rose in years to come.

Of course, he may have the best of them before he goes; impressive wide-margin victories for the Nicky Henderson-trained pair put them both on the Cheltenham Festival trail.

Afsoun announced himself a credible contender for the Champion Hurdle with a saunteringly easy nine-length success, putting the memory of an uncharacteristic fall on his previous run firmly behind him.

On testing ground that was passed fit for racing only after a morning inspection, Fitzgerald restrained the keen French-bred as the doughty veteran The French Furze took the field along. Afsoun emerged from his slipstream on the swing into the straight, jumped the last two obstacles with aplomb and quickly drew clear in stately isolation down the centre of the track.

The run-in yesterday was more than a quarter of a mile (the usual final hurdle being omitted because of the near-waterlogged underfoot conditions) and into a buffeting headwind, which can affect the concentration of a horse running solo. But Afsoun, the 11-8 favourite, coped with a will.

It was by no means the strongest edition of this two-mile Grade Two contest ever staged, but although The French Furze is now a teenager, there are very much worse yardsticks, particularly on his favoured ground.

Afsoun showed himself not averse to mudlarking but, as a Flat-bred son of Kahyasi, it is likely that he will be seen to better effect on a drier surface. His profile is upwardly mobile; he has done nothing but improve since he finished fifth to the Champion Hurdle favourite Detroit City in last season's Triumph Hurdle.

"He's a real nice little horse," said Fitzgerald. "We've all learned from his fall, him and us. Perhaps he'll have to step up again for the Champion Hurdle, but he wasn't that far behind Detroit City last year, so we'll see."

Five-year-olds do not often win Champion Hurdles, but the last to do so, See You Then in 1985, was also trained by Henderson. His latest young star is unlikely to appear again before the big day. "That's earned him his ticket," said owner Trevor Hemmings, "and I should think we'll nurse him between now and then. He's been buzzy in the past but he seems to be calming down as he gains experience. The Irish keep on winning the Champion Hurdle so I hope we'll give them something to think about." Of the betting firms, Ladbrokes were most impressed with Afsoun's performance, cutting him to 16-1, which is on a par with the likes of the crack mare Asian Maze.

The six-year-old Amaretto Rose has a way to go to match that female of the species, but yesterday she was 18 lengths deadlier than the males in the Grade Two novices' contest. The Alflora chestnut, making it two from two over hurdles, looked very much the part as she swept up to and past Astarador, Fitzgerald sitting motionless. She is now third favourite at 10-1 for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle.

Fitzgerald tempered his delight with reason. "She was impressive," he said, "but those long winning distances tend to happen on extremes of ground. But she is good, she's really switched on to her job and her technique over a hurdle is very slick."

Honours in the day's fencing feature, the Peter Marsh Chase, went to 8-1 shot The Outlier, but the moral high ground was taken by the top-weighted runner-up, Turpin Green, who was giving a stone and a half to his rival. But credit to both horses over a gruelling three miles in the conditions. The Outlier, trained by Venetia Williams and ridden by 3lb claimer Paul O'Neill, was in front for the full length of the straight after trailblazing Irish Raptor's mistake four out left him exposed.

"The wind was very strong," said O'Neill, "and he started to waver a bit. But once I got hold of him and got some slaps into him he put his head down and did it well." Too many slaps for the stewards' liking, though; the rider picked up a three-day ban for excessive use of the whip.

My Way de Solzen, one of the most exciting of this term's chasing recruits, had little more than a paid (nearly £20,000) exercise gallop to land the odds in the novices' Grade Two two-and-a- half-miler.

BETS OF THE DAY

Best shortshot
Tradingup (Towcester, 2.40) has shown signs of being progressive and has won over the course and distance in similar conditions.

Best longshot
Madam Blaze (Towcester, 1.40) is entitled to improve for her debut and the stamina in her pedigree will be an asset today.

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star