Last weekend we were finishing the flat season and celebrating a winner on the flat. Fast forward a week and it was another winner being led in for the team although this time in a different sphere. Kajaki had made a winning debut over hurdles a month earlier at Sedgefield and took his perfect record to 2/2 when winning the 2m Biggest Ever Jumps Season On RacingUK Introductory Hurdle at Wetherby.
Having proven effective on the flat, Kajaki took to hurdling like a duck to water. He had schooled very well at home so it was no surprise to see him make a great start to his jumping career. For most of the way he was foot perfect, only getting the last slightly wrong when losing a bit of concentration. He ran out a ready winner and immediately following that win Brian Hughes suggested the race at Wetherby.
With the flat out of the way now, attention really turns to the NH scene. There were some big meetings around Britain and Ireland, including Cheltenham’s November meeting. This saw the race cut up quite a bit with just 5 runners opting to go to post. On paper Kajaki held the strongest form with his maiden win looking better than fellow winner Tight Call. The pair would have to carry a penalty to the other fancied runner, a bumper winner making his debut, Skandiburg. This trio were looking the obvious winners, with the other two set to start at 20/1 or bigger. With seemingly the best form, Kajaki would go off the 11/10fav.
Brian had been summoned to Cheltenham so Henry Brooke, who used to work for Kevin in his youth, would deputise in the saddle. Lining up by the tape, it was Tight Call who was closest to it and as it went up you could see why. Jumping off into the lead he quickly went 3 lengths clear of Kajaki who settled in second. Skandiburg was another couple of lengths in third whilst the outsiders were in a pair at the rear of the field. Initially it was a good gallop set but once the leader realised that he had no pressure it was settled down to a nice even gallop. Racing into the first Kajaki had clear sight but got in a little tight. Although awkward over it he made the adjustment, landing back in stride.
The first 3 flights took the field down past the stands and onto the final circuit. Hurdles 2 and 3 were taken well by all the 5 runners which offered little change as they continued to race in their original starting positions. Kajaki was happily racing on his own with a few lengths either side of him. Passing the post for the first time Tight Call slowed the pace a little, allowing the gap to close as he rounded the bend and headed up the back straight.
As they raced back away from the stands they would face another 3 hurdles in their journey. All the field were still travelling well and seemed content with the leader’s fractions in front. Henry allowed Kajaki to travel within himself, wherever the grey was happy to do so. Heading into the fourth flight the lead opened up again to the 3 length margin. They were all over it safely and bared down on the fifth, passing the halfway point of the race. Both the leader and Kajaki were a little untidy over this, nothing major and it didn’t stop either in their tracks. The final hurdle in the back straight saw both of the first two make amends and get back to their smooth jumping.
Now the race began to heat up a little as Tight Call took the field along into the final bend. There was a distinct injection of pace which Kajaki and Skandiburg both matched. The two outsiders now just came under pressure to try and stay with the fancied trio.
Entering the home straight the first three had now gained a break and it was clear, barring any major errors, that the winner would come from these. Moving inside the final 4f they were racing to the 7th flight. Here Kajaki was clean over and quicker away than the leader, halving the lead in the process. This caused Tight Call to come under the drive as Henry sat motionless on Kajaki. Skandiburg made a mistake which handed the initiative to the leading pair and more or less ruined his chances. The race looked like it had come down to two.
Bounding down to 2 out and Kajaki had loomed up on Tight Call, travelling much the better. Both horses made a mistake at the hurdle but Kajaki’s was less untidy and he landed much the better. Quicker away he allowed Henry to maitain his patience as his rival came under strong pressure. There was little between the pair heading down to the final flight. Again both horses made amends for their previous mistakes and took the final flight together. Kajaki had shown himself to be quicker away than Tight Call and did so once again. He pulled into a 1 1/2 length lead inside the final furlong. Tight Call was proving a tough nut to crack and was responding to pressure. Henry had to keep Kajaki up to his work as Tight Call began to close again. Although the lead was being eaten into, Kajaki was always doing enough in front and held on to win by a much narrower margin than it could have been, 1/2 length.
Kajaki has really enjoyed his hurdling, from schooling to racing. He is a fluent jumper and clever enough to adjust when he does make a slight error in judgement. Although he has plenty more to think about over hurdles than the flat, he does still hold the trait of thinking he has done enough. Kajaki is a smooth traveller and jumps well which will always put him into a good position but he can get complacent towards the end of his race. The small error he made 2 out was due to the ease he had got into a winning position and then the final furlong was Kajaki believing he had done enough. Owner Frank Gillespie enjoys both codes of racing so it is great to have a horse who can do both. Kajaki looks a lovely prospect and it could be that a better grade of race will see him improve more. This could really help with his concentration which in turn could see an even better performance. Kajaki is certainly one to look forward to.