Grade 3-winning chaser Rashaan has been laying low since Christmas but is set to return to action soon, with a view to renewing his Grade 1 challenge.
The seven-year-old, who cost just €8,500 as a once-raced Flat horse, won his 12th race when breaking his maiden over fences in style at Galway last August.
The win came in a Grade 3 novice chase, sending him quickly into more challenging company, where he got a spark of stage fright.
“He lined up, but refused to race at Fairyhouse in the Drinmore,” explained trainer Colin Kidd, throwing his hands up.
“I don’t know why, I’m putting it down to first-time cheekpieces. I’m hoping that’s what it was because he never showed any signs of that before.”
Asked why he had fitted cheekpieces, a first try of any headgear since he came to Kidd’s yard, the trainer added: “I thought it might sharpen up his jumping over fences – one or two days he wasn’t as slick as he could be – but obviously that backfired.”
To win 13 races and almost €200,000 in prize-money is unbelievable
Rashaan had been less than fluent at Galway in October, and again when dropped in to open Grade 2 company in the Clonmel Oil Chase, won by subsequent Grade 1 Savills Chase winner Kemboy, no less.
The chestnut had been racing since early May by then though, and Kidd feels he can return to his best this spring.
“We’ve always given him a break during the winter because of the ground, but the way the ground turned out, he actually didn’t need a break this time,” he said.
“He was always going to have to a break at some point though, and the Drinmore was the signal we needed.
“He had a full month off in December and is back in training now with a view to racing again in February or March.”
Will he bid to prove himself in another Grade 1 chase? Maybe. But a start in something more low-key is more likely. With a handicap rating in the low 140s, a novice handicap chase is also a possibility.
Back in October, Rashaan earned plaudits at the Association of Irish Racehorse Owners’ annual awards, being crowned the top value buy from Goffs.
Remarkably, he has won around 22 times what he cost Kidd as a three-year-old at the 2015 Goffs February Mixed Sale, which took place this year on February 5-6.
You just have to trust your own judgement
Kidd explained: “The day we bought him, if anyone had told me he’d go on to win two Grade 3s, a Grade 2 and be competitive in Grade 1s, you wouldn’t have believed them.
“To me he looked like a hurdler – I thought anything after a maiden hurdle win would be a bonus.
“To win 13 races and almost €200,000 in prize-money is unbelievable. It’ll probably never happen again – but you never know.”
The Carlow trainer targets ex-Flat horses due to their value and readiness. It does work, but in a climate where all sales in Ireland are hitting records month after month, even that has become tricky.
“They have become more expensive, everything has filtered down because you can’t go to the store sales and compete with Willie Mullins and Gigginstown House Stud,” he said.
“You have to keep your ear to the ground and see what’s out there and try to pick up a bit of value somewhere.”
How does he do that? There are several factors to consider, but they all boil down to personal judgement.
“I’d never be in a position to go to the sales and spend €40,000 or €50,000 on a horse coming off the Flat,” he explained. “You just have to trust your own judgement and hope it works out.
“I prefer to buy off the Flat – a lot of my owners do, too. If you go to the store sales and buy a three-year-old, you’re waiting a year and a half or two years to run them.
You have to keep your ear to the ground and see what’s out there
“If you’re buying something that has been running on the Flat, and shown a fair level of form – without winning, of course, because you wouldn’t be able to afford anything that had won a couple – you just need to think you might improve them a bit to go for them.”
Whilst not bullish about any of his newest purchases, Kidd is keen to test two reasonably-priced four-year-olds next month, though their identity is a secret, for now.
“I have a couple of four-year-olds off the Flat that will be going hurdling late February, March. They were bought privately and my owner would kill me if he saw me saying anything about them yet!”