It can be a fine line between winning and losing and the culmination of a few small jumping errors was the difference between Thistlecrack winning and getting beaten in the Cotswolds Chase last Saturday.
The ill-fated Many Clouds jumped brilliantly and was foot perfect while Thistlecrack made a mistake at the third-last on the first circuit, the fourth last on the second circuit and was just a bit deliberate at the last fence.
When you add up the amount of ground those mistakes cost Thistlecrack – it was probably the difference to him getting chinned.
Some pundits have raised doubts about his stamina but there’s only about an extra half-furlong and an extra fence to jump in the Gold Cup next month compared to last Saturday’s contest.
While you’re always looking for any chinks in the armour of a Gold Cup favourite and the other leading contenders, Thistlecrack is still the one we all have to beat on St Patrick’s Day.
He’s still a novice so he’ll have learned a lot from Saturday’s experience and the likely drier ground will suit him too.
Petit Mouchoir was very impressive on Sunday in the Irish Champion Hurdle. He went a very good gallop, in a good time, and is a deserving Champion Hurdle candidate.
I had the box seat on Nichols Canyon for most of the way until he tipped up at the last when set for third. It felt like Sunday’s run was an improvement on his Ryanair Hurdle performance, even if it wasn’t quite up to his Morgiana Hurdle win last year, when he beat Faugheen.
Some pundits have quibbled that Footpad got much closer to Petit Mouchoir than he did at Christmas. However, he’s just turned five and is entitled to improve on his four-year-old-season.
Melon won a normal maiden hurdle well but it’s hard to say whether he has done much more than any of the other maiden hurdle winners. But you can only beat what’s in front of you on any given day.
Let’s Dance did it well on the same card. She jumped well, was very professional and quickened up smartly. She had more experience than the runner-up Kemboy and third-placed Joey Sasa, who both made mistakes in running, and she put that to good use.
She’ll be entered in all the novice hurdles and seems to have improved over 2m 4f so it would be hard to see her coming back in trip at the Festival.
I was at Cheltenham last Saturday where Un De Sceaux put up a good performance, jumped super and deserved to win. The soft ground suited him in the re-scheduled Clarence House Chase. The runner-up Uxizandre ran an encouraging race after two years off since giving AP McCoy his last Cheltenham winner in the 2015 Ryanair Chase.
Later on the card, my mount, Colin Tizzard’s novice West Approach stayed on well behind Stayer’s Hurdle ante-post favourite Unowhatimeanharry and Cole Harden in the Cleeve Hurdle.
They went a really good gallop and with better ground also likely to help Thistlecrack’s half-brother, he deserves his place in the 3m Albert Bartlett line-up next month where he’ll face a bit of competition there from Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Wholestone, among others, who could also line up, if connections decide to go back up in trip.
I was impressed by Wholestone who looked like a strong stayer and jumped very professionally when winning the Neptune Trial over two and a half miles. He beat West Approach over 3m at Cheltenham in December, although Colin Tizzard’s charge made a bad blunder at the second last.
She’s good form in bumpers and was second on her most recent start to Samcro at Navan and that was a good run. She’s schooled well at home so should have a big chance on Thursday.
This should be an informative contest as Henry De Bromhead’s Monalee beat Tarcagua in a maiden hurdle at Punchestown and both were subsequently beaten by Death Duty at Navan and Naas respectively.
Willie Mullins’ other runner Battleford may have had better form in bumpers but since they’ve gone over hurdles, Tarcagua’s form looks stronger, so I’ve chosen him.
Clarcam is the highest-rated runner in the field. Given his rating, my mount Upazo is going to have to improve significantly on his October run at Cork when he was pulled up.