The main presents over Christmas need no analytical unwrapping and drew their own dreamy battle lines for future fights, Thistlecrack vs Douvan and Altior vs Min, so here’s a shortlist of five performances from the festive period that, like the Roquefort on the cheeseboard, didn’t get the plaudits it deserves.
1) MIGHT BITE
A substandard Grade 1 that’s difficult to evaluate because so many blundered away their chance. The shortcomings of a race can sometimes disguise a horse’s worth, as can a fall, but Might Bite made his compiling class pretty clear before a difference of opinion with his rider and the last, when the best part of 20 lengths clear. By our reckoning, had he completed, Might Bite would have been only 6 lb slower than Thistlecrack. We’re joining dots, but they’re certainly Grade 1 dots.
It says plenty for Gordon Elliott that he’s still buzzing around at the top of the Irish trainers table despite several almighty swats by Willie Mullins over Christmas, and another €9,500 was being counted into the coffers when Runfordave cruised into the lead at Limerick on Boxing Day, only for him to take his eye of it at the second-last. It was a costly mistake, but eight-tenths of Limerick showed that Runfordave is really getting his act together, ready for take-off under the right circumstances.
3) MY TENT OR YOURS
It’s not an original thought, I know, but it is worth repeating that My Tent Or Yours and the Betfair Hurdle is increasingly looking a match made – and a plan laid – in heaven. Eight defeats on the spin perhaps say more about the races he’s contested than his personal standards, the environment taking the shine off him, and the feeling is that the embers may still reignite an explosion for an end-to-end gallop in a top-end handicap where he’s the boss.
Contesting one is hard, two is taxing and three is plain torture, so it says a lot about Bacardys’ ability and durability that he was placed in each of the three championship bumpers at the festivals, winning the middle leg at Aintree. Hurdles have almost got in his way this season, falling at Cork and fluffing a few at Leopardstown over Christmas. That he still managed to win at Leopardstown is ominous for the staying novice hurdlers with Cheltenham aspirations, as there’s a pool of improvement for his jumping and an ocean of it for his stamina.
5) BENIE DES DIEUX
Though regaining the winning thread in the Grade 2 race that was the Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle, Vroum Vroum Mag was wobbling a bit at the end of three miles and a few cracks have appeared in her armour this season. Fortunately for all concerned, the new Vroum Vroum Mag arrived at Limerick last week, namely Benie des Dieux. Her jumping at Limerick on her Irish debut was a joy to behold, and Benie des Dieux, in every way, looks the next big thing on the mares scene.
Two for the weekend
Chocala 3.35pm Sandown – Unlucky to bump into one last time and his trainer is in good form
Cambodia 6.15pm Wolverhampton – Will come on for his run last month and this longer trip will suit