Willie Mullins regrets running Sempre Medici in the International Hurdle at Cheltenham last week.
Beaten just a length he’s got a 12 lbs. hike from the Irish handicapper, and Willie feels he should have waited for The Ladbroke at Ascot today instead.
Maybe, but in the overall scheme of things he should take a broader view.
Any Cheltenham experience is valuable, and this was certainly a step up from his sixth to stablemate Wicklow Brave in the County Hurdle last March.
More tellingly, a horse he clearly sees as a handicapper, at this stage anyway, got within a length of what well might prove to be Britain’s best hope of Champion Hurdle glory.
Sempre Medici after all is well down the Mullins hurdling pecking order.
So what chance would Old Guard have against Faugheen, Nichols Canyon, Arctic Fire and company?
Life is rarely that simple though, if it were the bookies would have long since gone out of business.
The fact that Old Guard won when most of Paul Nicholls runners – particularly the better known ones – were underachieving big time should not be underestimated.
Equally Peace And Co’s curious run can at least be excused a little as the Nicky Henderson team are running pretty average at the moment by their normal exacting standards.
In some ways Old Guard resembles Katchit – a Cheltenham specialist who keeps improving.
Alan King’s rising star went on to win the Champion – and at only five years of age too.
Mind you it’s a sobering thought for anyone steaming in on Old Guard that no five year old has won it since – and the last before Katchit was Night Nurse in ’76.
Still, you’d have to say that if Old Guard keeps progressing he could be very much in the mix by March.
Yet the fact remains that with Peace And Co totally under performing the odds of halting the Mullins machine at Prestbury Park grew considerably longer.
And now the Coneygree news could leave the home defence in the Gold Cup pretty threadbare too.
More Of That though must be taken seriously.
A proven Festival performer, and under the guidance of that master trainer of staying chasers Jonjo O’Neill, he has ticks in many of the right boxes.
Smad Place is clearly going in the right direction too, while Cue Card is enjoying a wonderful revival.
The King George will tell us a lot, but in many ways the Lexus has proven a better Gold Cup guide in recent years.
Of course both are brilliant stand alone races in their own right, let’s not lose sight of that.
We shouldn’t let Cheltenham cast such a long shadow that two of the best and most important races of the season are seen merely as Gold Cup warm ups.
The Lexus in particular is simply dripping with quality this time.
Djakadam, Don Poli and Sir Des Champs – and that’s just the Mullins brigade.
Road To Riches, Carlingford Lough and Gilgamboa will ensure that this is no monopoly for the Closutton yard.
Overall the whole Christmas period rivals Cheltenham as an absolute feast of top class jump racing.
This day next week we’ll be right in the thick of it with the Boxing Day action, so this Newsletter will return on Saturday Janurary 2.
A very merry and peaceful Christmas to everyone, and let’s back plenty of winners to make it a prosperous one too!
Back next Saturday.
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