Un De Sceaux worked well on Tuesday morning as he bids for a Clarence House hat-trick at Ascot on Saturday (3.35pm)
He had to do it the hard way last year. He’d an extra trip to the UK when the race was switched from Ascot to Cheltenham but he was very good at Ascot two years ago and with some cut in the ground there again on Saturday he should be raring to go.
He’s already beaten Top Gamble by 25 lengths at Cork when he was giving him weight and that rival has to meet him on level terms this weekend.
The other big challenger is Nicky Henderson’s novice, Brain Power. He looked very good at Kempton before unseating at Sandown. I still think he has a fair bit to prove to get to Un De Sceaux at level weights.
That contest is proving as intriguing as it was last year with Gordon Elliott having a lead of about 500k over Willie Mullins at this stage of the season. But there’s a lot of racing to be done yet, the Thyestes Chase is coming up at Gowran Park next week and there’s the unknown of the two-day Dublin Racing February at Leopardstown on February 3rd & 4th.
There’s so much prizemoney on offer at the inaugural festival there that if things don’t work out for us – Gordon Elliott could take an insurmountable lead into the Spring festivals. We managed to collar him in the final days of Punchestown last season but make no mistake, the Dublin Festival is not a trial for Cheltenham or anywhere else.
There’s an awful lot of prizemoney on offer and each contest will be hotly contested in its own right.
And as we saw at Christmas, Henry de Bromhead and Jessica Harrington will have plenty of leading chances too, so there’ll be no gimmes. And if Faugheen, Min, Yorkhill and Djakadam etc. fail to spark again we could find ourselves with a mountain to climb in this year’s trainers’ championship,
The horses are all running well though as last weekend proved and Getabird surprised me on with his smooth victory at Fairyhouse last Saturday.
Maybe I had him boxed off as a 2m4f type as he was such a good bumper horse and came from the point-to-point field, but he showed plenty of speed by seeing off a former smart Flat horse in Mengli Khan around a tight track.
It was a very good performance to my eye and certainly gives him the option of the Supreme Novices Hurdle or Ballymore Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Invitation Only was another who impressed me. He came back to form with a bang on Sunday at Punchestown and the way he galloped through the finishing line shows he has the stamina for a crack at the JLT Novices Chase over 2m 4f or possibly even the 3m RSA Chase.
He’s already proven he’s not slow having won a maiden hurdle over 2m in his younger days.