Form is temporary, class is forever. It’s a phrase that you hear so often in sport and although it does prove true it is usually uttered through a bad patch where that class does seem to have eluded them. Naadirr fit this bill since switching to Kevin last season. Having come onto his radar 3 years ago when downing stable star Astaire, Naadirr spent a couple of years bouncing between pattern company and handicaps. He arrived at Hambleton Lodge towards the start of last season and although it took a bit of time to learn about him, Kevin finally found the key to unlock his quality as Naadirr snapped his 2 year winless streak when taking the 6f 32Red Handicap at Doncaster.
Tricky can be used to best describe Naadirr, not in a training sense but his running style. He has always been a strong traveller who loves something to aim at but this has led to trouble in running as well a few occasions when he simply couldn’t make headway so the toys were thrown out of the pram. When he arrived in the yard Naadirr brought with him a handicap mark of 102, showing just what he had achieved previously. It was just the type of horse who could really give Kevin some ammunition for the top handicaps if he could sweeten the gelding up and recapture his old form. Unfortunately it didn’t prove to be that straight forward and last year was a little bit of a write off. Yes he was competing in some top sprints but there didn’t seem to be a spark there even though he was impressing at home. It wasn’t until the final few weeks of the season where he really showed that there was still something there. Travelling well he finished a good third at Doncaster, rounding off the year on a high and giving connections hope that 2018 may well prove more fruitful.
If there is one factor that has proved consistent throughout Naadirr’s career and that was his good form at Doncaster. Yielding 2 wins and 2 placed efforts from 4 runs at Town Moor, the 7 year old has shown a real liking for the track. With this in mind, Kevin immediately nominated the 6f Handicap on the opening meeting of the season. With the weather being so cold and wet throughout the last month, Kevin knew that the ground would be on the testing side so decided that Naadirr would benefit from going into the race sharp. Having impressed at home and come to hand early, Naadirr returned to the track at Wolverhampton. Being a big sprinter it was felt that he would need the run as he lined up against some quality and race fit rivals. Held up off the pace, he travelled well before making late headway but struggling to match the finish of his rivals. He had shown enthusiasm and run well in what proved to be a strong race.
The 6f event at Doncaster attracted a field of 14 runners and many of Naadirr’s rivals were in the same boat. There were plenty of popular and well known names who had slipped slightly in the weights and were looking to recapture good, old form. If ever there was a jockey made for a horse it is Jamie Spencer for Naadirr, who were teaming up for the second time. Always a horse who likes to come off the pace, the tactics for Naadirr were again to settle and then come with a late run. The start almost went wrong as he jumped awkwardly and unbalanced Jamie in the saddle. This could easily have left him with too much to do but Naadirr was quickly into his stride although sat last of the 14 runners. In this situation Jamie is second to none and just allowed his mount to settle into his rhythm rather than force the issue. Dark Defender took the lead from the get go and set a strong gallop, stretching the field out.
Having raced the day before, it wasn’t clear just how testing the ground would be but Naadirr travelled nicely through the early stages. The pace didn’t settle down and so it would really test these sprinters come the latter stages. Although the field were spread across the track it was the stands side where the leader was making headway. In the rear of the field Naadirr had clear movement around him but Jamie didn’t need to manoeuvre too much as he had the pace on his side thanks to the leader. They were soon through halfway and sprinting towards the business end of the race.
From the previous races over the 2 days it had proved difficult to come from along way off the pace. Although Naadirr was travelling sweetly he had plenty of ground to make up and this may be hard given the ground conditions. Moving inside the 3f marker and already some of the runners were beginning to work, especially those towards the front. Dark Defender had yet to see a rival and was still going great guns out in front. Those around him were struggling to make an impression and as they came under pressure there was no movement forward. Jamie was sat motionless in the saddle but Naadirr was taking him through the race well. Those who had raced in the rear were now closing up to the rest which meant the field began to bunch up.
The complexion of the race changed as they entered the final couple of furlongs. Naadirr was cantering and now it was Jamie’s job to plot a route as he was blocked by a wall of horses. Dark Defender was still leading and not stopping but now it became clear that the biggest threats were to be the late challengers from the rear of the field. Angling into a gap, Naadirr poked his head through and in a few strides pulled through to overtake a lot of his rivals. Jamie had a horse who was full of running but he was also wary of not hitting the front too soon. With the leader not stopping and challengers moving through around him Jamie had to make a decision. As they galloped towards the final furlong marker Jamie let his mount go, keen not to disappoint him.
Once given the green light Naadirr quickened up and burst through. It was an injection of pace that probably took Jamie by surprise because suddenly he had swept through to overtake the long time leader. Now he had to maintain his run and for the first time Jamie got serious in the saddle. He had gained the lead and moved into a length advantage but now Naadirr would be hard pressed. The initial burst of speed began to peter out and it gave Naadirr’s rivals a sniff of overthrowing the new leader. Thinking that he had done enough the stride just began to shorten a little and this was something that Jamie was trying to combat. There was still 3/4 furlong to run so it was far from over. The big danger came from Shared Equity who was gaining a second wind and attempting to renew his run. With Naadirr’s advantage slowly diminishing he suddenly felt the pressure coming from behind him. Having edged right towards his rival now Naadirr realised the job was not over. Showing a great attitude he responded to Jamie’s strong drive and the pressure from Shared Equity. He again found top gear and changed his legs. Having had his lead cut to just 1/2 length Naadirr now pulled more out of the bag and squeezed out his lead a little further. The line came and as Naadirr crossed it he held a good 3/4 margin and ended his 2 year long wait for a win.
Having had a first season to forget it was great to get Naadirr’s head back in front once more. In the past he has known to chuck the towel in but there was none of that here. Having travelled well he then showed a great turn of foot but most impressively he repelled then challenge once he hit the front. To some from off the pace on testing ground was difficult to do and he has shown that he is in great heart for the season ahead. Middleham Park put a lot of faith in Kevin to move the horse here and it is great to pay that back for all their owners, who had to be patient with the 7 year old. Now the handicapper will definitely be looking at him, as he did look well handicapped on old form. It’ll be interesting to see what he does but the better sprints are certainly in line for Naadirr. He hasn’t been the most consistent in the past but hopeful this is the start of a new Naadirr and he can prove that old dogs can learn new tricks.