What a difference a day makes! Coming out of Punchestown last Sunday it was still hard to take in that Faugheen had been beaten.
Something – other than Nichols Canyon of course! – seemed to be bothering him on the run home, he had a strange head carriage.
We already knew the winner was a sharp operator – but this good?
Okay, with the profound wisdom that hindsight brings, it was fact that he won four Grade Ones last year.
And it’s widely admitted – not least by Ruby Walsh – that wrong hold up tactics were deployed at the Cheltenham Festival.
Still, by all accounts Faugheen buried him in a work out on the Curragh gallops on Tuesday of last week.
After the Mogiana last Sunday Willie Mullins wondered aloud had Faugheen left his race behind him there.
Or did Nichols Canyon badly need that outing, or is he a horse that really only comes alive in races?
Questions, questions – and then didn’t Wicklow Brave finish much too close to both of them for comfort?
Okay, Patrick Mullins’ mount had a race fitness edge from the flat, but still, should he have got that near?
Rich Ricci, whose wife Susannah owns Faugheen, was deeply disappointed, all the more so as he had seen the Curragh work out where their pride and joy had trounced the Canyon.
Throw Arctic Fire in the mix too and you’d really need Peace And Co to excel or the Stan James Champion Hurdle will be a complete Mullins monopoly.
You couldn’t rule The New One out completely, and who knows what My Tent Or Yours might do should everything fall his way.
Of course Faugheen has lost some of his sheen, but I’d be surprised if he doesn’t bounce back in style in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton.
It’s no secret that with the very dry Autumn the Mullins team are a bit behind schedule.
Not that Willie used that as an excuse, indeed both before and after the race he said that he felt that Faugheen was among those who seemed most forward and ready in their preparations.
Either way though Nichols Canyon is now very much a contender.
The Morgiana first and second are unlikely to cross swords again before the Champion.
So speculation about their respective merits will continue until the opening day of the great carnival on the Cotswolds.
It was heart warming to see Sprinter Sacre back in such great nick in the Shloer Chase.
Everyone at Punchestown – where he enjoyed one of his finest hours – were glued to the screens watching him win doing handstands.
For sure the conditions of the race were in his favour, and good old Somersby – on ground that didn’t suit – finishing second might just take some of the gilt off the gingerbread.
But there was no mistaking the sheer delight that Nicky Henderson felt.
The Seven Barrows boss wears his heart on his sleeve which is refreshing, but he is not one to get carried away either.
He knows that far greater tests lie ahead, and whether he will ever again scale the same dizzy heights as before remains to be seen.
Yet last Sunday was a major step forward and the dream is still very much alive.
Back next Saturday.