There were probably few who witnessed Black Corton’s win at Newton Abbott in October who predicted he would go on to triumph in four of his next five races, including a Grade 1 victory at Kempton on Boxing Day.
For a horse that had been raced over the summer circuits at Fontwell and Worcester, you could be forgiven for thinking Newton Abbott would mark a fine end to his season. However, two weeks later he won at Cheltenham’s Showcase Meeting and save for a second place at Newbury in December, has remained unbeaten. Whilst I have always had a soft spot for him after that win – he helped my recovery at Prestbury Park on a day the bookies were getting the better of me – I have been among those who were not convinced by his credentials. I posted at the time that I believed Sizing Tennessee would have won, but for the fall, and when I returned to Cheltenham in November, I fancied Ballyoptic in the Novices’ Chase. The fact that Black Corton started out the 4/1 outsider in a field of three was evidence of how few had been won over. He beat Ballyoptic by four lengths.
It could be argued that because his jockey, Bryony Frost, has lit up the season like no one else, attention has been deflected from her ride. However, you sense that feelings have run deeper. There were those saying he was nothing more than a glorified summer horse and when they were proved wrong, the argument changed to – Oh, he’s being over raced.
The fact that you could have got slightly better than evens if you looked hard, in today’s Grade 2 Novices’ Chase at Ascot against a field who on paper were unlikely to trouble him, again showed the doubters remained. What was particularly impressive about today’s comfortable eight length win, was his ability to pick up the pace when asked. The notes I scribbled against his name in October’s Cheltenham Racecard, consist of two words – “Proper stayer”. That does him an injustice. He started his career as a two mile hurdler and looks to have much more in his locker than just an ability to stay three miles.
Whatever questions I used to have, now I’m a believer. However, at a time of year when markets are disproportionately affected by even a modest win, the fact that you can get 12/1 for the RSA at the Festival, would suggest there are still many to be converted.