Hold On – it's still too soon to jump to conclusions



When a horse can win any steeplechase despite, rather than because of, the way he jumped the fences, let alone a valuable Saturday contest at a Grade 1 track, you have to wonder what on earth he will do once he gets his technique together. In the case of Hold On Julio, who routed his rivals by nine lengths in yesterday's three-mile handicap at Sandown, that may be revealed at Cheltenham in March.

At the age of nine, the big, black gelding is a relative latecomer to the sharp end of the sport. Yesterday's victory was his sixth in a row, but the first four had come in the small pond of the northern point-to-point circuit last spring, after which he was headhunted by Alan King at auction for a modest £28,000 that now looks money wisely spent.

Hold On Julio had made a successful error-free debut for King in a lower-key contest at the track back in early November but yesterday Wayne Hutchinson had to sit tight more than a few times as his mount, experiencing the cut and thrust of good-class handicap company for the first time, hit several obstacles on the first circuit, including the first of the tricky, close-spaced fences alongside the mainline railway.

"This was a much better race than the last day and he was well out of his comfort zone early," said the rider. "He made mistakes, and when you hit the first of the railway fences, it can set the tone. So I had to let him just be a bit careful and pop away in his own time.

"Then as his stamina started to kick in he started to come on to the bridle coming out of the back straight for the last time and I was able to ask him to have a cut at the fences. He found a real gear from two out and sprinted up the hill to the line. If he'd jumped all the way, just how impressive would he have been? But he's learning all the time."

Hold On Julio carried bottom weight, rated more than two stone below the runner-up Neptune Collonges, a horse classy enough once to have been placed in two Gold Cups. The gallant 11-year-old stayed on to pass another lightweight, Qhilimar, after the final obstacle.

King was not unaware of Hold On Julio's potential, but the gelding's progress had to be put on temporary hold after he succumbed to the highly contagious equine skin complaint, ringworm. "He had it from head to toe," said the Wiltshire-based trainer, "and you can't ride them or let others near them. I'd been desperate to get another run into him; some of the work he's done in the past couple of weeks has been quite special. I haven't thought as far as a Cheltenham target yet but now we know he's a proper three-miler."

Hold On Julio, backed from around 5-1 in the morning to 5-2 favourite, was one for the punters, as was Hold Fast, runaway seven-length winner of the two-mile chase after support from 6-1 to 7-2. He, too, is upwardly mobile for new connections – he joined Paul Nicholls from warned-off Howard Johnson during the summer – and is also bound for the Festival, though whether he can follow his brilliant stablemate Master Minded, who took the same Sandown race four years ago, out of handicap company remains to be seen.

The market was not a guide, though, in the Tolworth Hurdle, taken by 9-1 shot Captain Conan, friendless after an opening offer of 7-1. And he probably owed his Grade 1 success on his first outing for Nicky Henderson since winning at Auteuil in June to the other drifter on the day. The 11-8 joint-favourite Colour Squadron, a reluctant trailblazer after the field walked through the start, led over the last flight but veered left-handed off a true line to the finish, allowing his rival to prevail by a short head.

Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreEXCLUSIVE The Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Colombia's James Rodriguez celebrates one of his goals during the FIFA World Cup 2014 round of 16 match between Colombia and Uruguay at the Estadio do Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Antoine Griezmann has started two of France’s four games so far
Life and Style
techYahoo Japan launches service to delete your files and email your relatives when you die
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Arts and Entertainment
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>
filmRobert Downey Jr named Hollywood's highest paid actor for second year running
Life and Style
Dale Bolinger arranged to meet the girl via a fetish website
Sign here, please: Magna Carta Island
propertyYours for a cool £4m
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

All the wood’s a stage

Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

Self-preservation society

Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor