As a trainer part of your role is to get confidence into a horse. When a horse has won once they can definitely get on a roll of results. Identity Thief lost his confidence at Leopardstown over Christmas – when he was pulled up behind Min – and his jumping was very disappointing. Confidence is a very important factor, particularly when it comes to jumping fences.
Identity Thief is back in action on Sunday in the Flyingbolt Novice Chase at Navan. He’s on a recovery mission but has been schooling well at home so we’re hopeful to get him back on track. He pulled up in the race at Christmas and unseated at the first obstacle last month at Leopardstown so the main thing we want is a clear round. He jumped very well in his two chase wins at Punchestown in the early part of the season, so we need to see that again on Sunday.
At the other end of the confidence scale is Champagne West who is absolutely buzzing after his stunning Thyestes Chase win and that’s great – but he’s still prone to a mistake at the obstacles. He made a nasty error at Gowran Park last month and he got under the second-last at Tramore on New Year’s Day. Fortunately he was a comfortable winner on both occasions.
You can only dream of a horse putting up such a performance under that amount of weight in the Thyestes. It was great to see Champagne West do it so convincingly. All eyes are on the Cheltenham Gold Cup now and getting him there in good shape. He’s won around Cheltenham a couple of times over fences, and was fourth in the Albert Bartlett three years ago so he’s got a nice bit of course form in the bag.
People will say he needs rain, but the ground wasn’t that soft for the Thyestes. The benefit of the soft ground for Champagne West is that he can turn the Gold Cup into an even tougher test of stamina, but I’m not convinced that he necessarily relies on the conditions that much. He certainly won’t run on really good ground, but Cheltenham always do a good job making the ground on the easy side if there isn’t much rain.
He’s in great form at home and fingers crossed he keeps going the right way. Everything seems good in the yard, and the stable are all in form – so now it’s just a case of keeping them sound over the next few weeks. The Festival is a tough place to get winners and you always need a slice luck. The butterflies aren’t fluttering yet but I’m looking forward to it apprehensively.
Elsewhere this weekend it’s fairly quiet with Diego Manchego our only runner at Gowran Park on Saturday. He goes in the Maiden Hurdle at 3.40pm. He’s a young horse having his first run so fingers crossed he gets on OK and has a nice introduction to the game. Bold Sky is also running for us at Navan on Sunday in the opening race. She unseated her jockey last week so we’re aiming to give her a nice introduction and see what she can do.