Although Kevin isn’t well known for it he does have quite a good record when switching codes and sending horses over the NH obstacles. Gralmano was the best known hurdler Kevin has trained, with his highlight being a victory in the Grade 2 Wetherby Hurdle. It was Kelso that saw Gralmano make his NH debut a winning one and it was the same Scottish track that Beyond The Clouds won his debut over hurdles in the 2 Mile Blue Coo Bistrot Novices Hurdle.
Having started his career this year as a 4 year old, Clouds made a perfect start when winning his bumper at Musselburgh. The form of the race was strong and it did get Kevin thinking about some of the champion bumpers at the three big festivals at Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown. Before those races it was felt that experience was key as he had shown the ability but needed the racing brain if he was to head into the heat of those contests. It was a return to Musselburgh and although he ran well, travelling strongly throughout the contest, inexperience proved to be his undoing and Clouds went down by 3/4 length to finish second. Immediately following the race Kevin and jockey Brian Hughes felt that some more time to strengthen and mature would really help Beyond The Clouds reach his true and full potential.
Seven months away from the track and a new NH season saw Clouds return and it was a bigger, stronger model who returned to the track. Brian had been in to the yard and schooled Clouds but it was decided that another Bumper may be the best option regarding future plans. Beyond The Clouds ran away with a Worcester bumper which got a nice blow into him and improved his record at the same time. Now Kevin had a decision to make. Would he go for the flat or would he stick with NH and send the chestnut over some obstacles. Decision was made following a schooling session where Clouds showed his quick, fluid jumping which impressed both trainer and jockey.
Beyond The Clouds had already shown good cruising speed and a nice turn of foot during his racing so Kevin was looking for a track that would play to these strengths. Kelso looked the ideal destination as Cloud was declared against 11 rivals. After his successes earlier in the year Clouds was backed into 4-6 fav, the third time in a row that he would be sent off odds on. The betting suggested there were only 3 horses with a realistic chance of winning, with Bal De Rio and Some Reign being the only others who were in single figure prices.
At the tape Brian was line up to the inside of the field but well to the fore. When the tape was raised he jumped to stay in this position and as Kelpies Myth took off to take the lead. This was a mad dash of a gallop so Brian sat second, 3-4 lengths off the leader and in a group that contained his closest market rivals. Taking the shortest route, Clouds lined up the first hurdle an took it well, nimbly popping over and wasting no extra airtime. The first of eight obstacles behind them they headed on to the next. Now the leader began to steady down and came back to the field but as he stumbled over the second it was another good jump from Clouds that left the chestnut in front and spearheading a group of 5.
Even at the early stages of the race there was a big split in the field. The leading protagonists were in the leading group, a good 5 lengths clear of the rest. Brian was riding Clouds with confidence and kept things very simple. As they bared down on the third, Clouds just had a little wander as he found the correct stride pattern but popped over nicely to edge a little further clear in front. Hurdles 4 and 5 were taking comfortably and this took them down the back straight where the gap between the two groups was growing with every stride. Baring any disasters the winner was surely only going to come from the leading five.
Beyond The Clouds had obviously taken his good schooling to the track as he navigated to first half of the race with style and relative ease. Now with a length and a half lead Brian continued to let him stride on and with his ears pricked Clouds was winding it up from the front. Some Reign always had Clouds in his sights and Bal De Rio was positioned on that ones outer. The sixth flight was again taken perfectly as they began to take the turn that would lead them for the final two flights and the home straight. Brian let out a bit of rein and this allowed Beyond The Clouds to stride on, injecting some more pace into the race. Clouds now began to open up a bit more of a margin as only Some Reign could go with him. The group of five had now been fractured as the two began to pull clear.
Coming into the second last Clouds held a couple of lengths lead but it was his first mistake. There was no drama but Clouds just got in a little tight which caused him to be a little slower over the hurdle. It was only a minor error but his challenger took the flight a lot smoother and this enabled Some Reign to close to within a length. Brian didn’t panic and just shook his mount up to try and assert but also ensure he kept concentrating. Clouds responded and maintained his lead as they headed towards the last flight and the short run in.
Now Beyond The Clouds would need a nice jump to make life easier for him. He looked to be holding his rival but a loss of momentum could scupper him on the run in as there isn’t too much time following the final hurdle. Niggling along Brian kept his mount straight and true, keeping the stride right. Clouds was back to his best and popped over with little daylight between horse and hurdle. The moment his front feet touched the turf he was away. Now Some Reign couldn’t match him and the race was put to bed in the strides leaving the hurdle. Driven out by Brian on the short run in, Beyond The Clouds went on to win by 2 lengths.
It was a very pleasing debut over hurdles and Beyond The Clouds id everything asked of him. His jumping was almost perfect and with experience he can only get better. He was actually going away again at the line and so Clouds may have been worth more than the bare result. He is certainly an exciting prospect and will continue to progress with racing. What happens next will all depend on the races available but it will be nice to dream about attending one of the big meetings next year.