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Ferny Hollow - how good could he be?

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If last Wednesday’s Weatherbys Champion Bumper left us wondering just how good Sir Gerhard and Kilcruit might turn out to be, the results of two of the week's novice hurdles underlined the immense potential of last year’s bumper winner Ferny Hollow.

The 2020 Weatherbys Champion Bumper winner was sadly absent from Cheltenham owing to a stress fracture revealed just before Christmas, but he could hardly have enhanced his reputation any more had he been there.
 
For Ferny Hollow is not simply the last horse to have finished in front of Tuesday’s 24-length Sky Bet Supreme winner Appreciate It, having beaten him by two and a half lengths at Cheltenham last March. He is also the only horse to have ever had the measure of Wednesday’s hugely impressive Ballymore winner Bob Olinger, having beaten him a length, the pair a mile clear, when they were both making their hurdles debut in a maiden at Gowran Park in November.
 
Just how good do those form lines suggest Ferny Hollow might be?
 
Unfortunately Ferny Hollow is no longer likely to be back in time for Punchestown, which had initially been a possibility, but his injury is healing well and the compliments paid to him at Cheltenham in his absence did not escape Mullins, who misses almost nothing.
 
Mullins said: “The form is looking rock solid now, and Ferny Hollow looks a good sort. I know there was talk at one time about him possibly being back for Punchestown, but at the moment we are not thinking about that. We’ll wait for next season.”
 
Every bit as excited about Ferny Hollow’s return is Chris Richardson, managing director of owners the Cheveley Park Stud, which won the Weatherbys Champion Bumper in 2019 with Envoi Allen and has now won it three years in a row thanks to Sir Gerhard who, as with Ferny Hollow in 2020, reversed market expectations with the stable’s perceived number one.
 
Richardson said: “It was very frustrating that Ferny Hollow had that setback, but we understand that he’s recovering well from it. He’ll be back hopefully, and his form couldn’t look better. It’s been franked every which way.
 
“We know how good he is, and it’s a bit more evident now to the wider racing public after last week, so there’s lots to look forward to.”
 
The death of the Cheveley Park’s David Thompson in December has understandably made for a most difficult time for the Thompson family, but Cheltenham gave everyone a lift, with the  colours also carried to impressive wins by Alloha in the Ryanair Chase and by Quilixios in the JCB Triumph Hurdle, as well as by Supreme runner-up Ballyadam and Gold Cup second A Plus Tard. Indeed the only blot was the previously unbeaten Envoi Allen’s uncharacteristic fall - his first in public - in the Marsh.
 
It had originally been David Thompson’s idea to become more heavily involved at jumps racing’s top table, and it has paid off handsomely. Talk of winding down that side following Thompson’s passing is premature, Richardson said.
 
He said: “Three years ago Mr Thompson decided he wanted action at Cheltenham and action through the winter months, and he invested heavily and wisely. To have gone into the week with six runners and to have come out with three winners and two seconds was more than we could have dared dreamed of - even better than in either of the two previous years.”
 
He added: “Winding down the jumps side of things hasn’t been discussed yet, as Mr Thompson’s passing is still very fresh in the minds of everybody, but I don't suppose there will be any purchases this year - why would you when you have 16 horses, of which six ran at Cheltenham and others, like Ferny Hollow, might well have done. 
 
“There’s been a significant investment and it’s now time to enjoy it. They are still young horses, with some yet to race for us, and there’s lots to look forward to.”
 
While the season is far from over for the Cheveley Park Stud’s two active Weatherbys Champion Bumper winners -  Envoi Allen could well make a quick reappearance at Aintree, while Richardson expects Sir Gerhard to be heading for Punchestown - one eye is already firmly on the 2022 Weatherbys Champion Bumper. 
 
Four wins in succession for an operation operating on such a numerically modest scale would be stretching credibility, but the Cheveley Park Stud might already have a prime candidate. 
 
Richardson said: “We are so appreciative of what Weatherbys do. It was very sad not to be there but hopefully we’ll be back next year and all being well we’ll have opportunities again, which we very much look forward to.
 
“Sir Gerhard was very impressive, following on from Envoi Allen and Ferny Hollow, and the pressure now is to try to find one for next year. I did, rather tongue in cheek, say to Willie that the last horse that Mr Thompson bought, who is called Classic Getaway, might be the one to have a go with next year.
 
“He’s a very good-looking five-year-old by Getaway, and he was bought at Goffs’ Yorton Sale for £570,000 in December after he had won his only point-to-point very easily.”
 
Envoi Allen, Ferny Hollow and Sir Gerhard were all big money purchases after winning their sole point-to-point very easily, so it’s clearly a winning formula, and how fitting would it be for David Thompson’s last ever purchase to follow in their footsteps.
 
Don’t bet against it.