Irish horses have invariably come out on the wrong side of big race Stewards Enquiries in the UK this season.
And the one time the ball did hop our way – Bondi Beach and Simple Verse in the St Leger – the Stewards verdict was later overturned.
So whatever the large Sandown crowd – many of whom endured nightmare traffic jams just to get to the meeting – expected after the Tingle Creek there was a weary air of resignation back in Ireland about the outcome.
But there is certainly no conspiracy or bias involved, it’s just the way things happened, every case on its merits.
One thing for sure is that the horse that passes the post first – by hook or by crook as they say – is mighty hard to dislodge in these islands, though things are very different in France and the U.S.
Thus Golden Horn got away with that gigantic bump on Free Eagle in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown.
Anyway back to the Tingle Creek and how do we assess the form?
It was heart warming to see Sire De Grugy back in the groove as he really had started to seem a light of other days.
But would have won had Un De Sceaux, Sprinter Sacre or even Simonsig lined out?
Obviously his enthusiasm is fully restored, but he would need to improve again to begin to scale the heights that he did before.
Special Tiara is clearly very useful, and while he was passed out a little too easily when surrendering the lead, he did show a good attitude to battle back.
In his earlier days it was always assumed that he was better on better ground and that indeed could still be the case.
So when the dust and the controversy settles, the jury is still out on the first two home but Vibrato Valtat was very disappointing.
One thing I’ve found though is that in judging a horses performance it’s always wise to consider just how the stable generally is faring at the time.
Paul Nicholls is still sending out his share of winners but his top notch performers have not really been sparking in recent weeks.
Unioniste, Saphir Du Rheu, Rocky Creek, Ptit Zig and Silviniaco Conti have all under performed to a greater or lesser degree lately.
Thus it might be premature to write off “the vibrator” just yet, but clearly he is best watched for the moment.
Speaking of stables being in and out of form the normally highly consistent Welsh yard of Rebecca Curtis is under a considerable cloud right now.
So anyone about to wade in on Irish Cavalier in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup today should think long and hard about parting with their hard earned.
It’s hard to believe that Willie Mullins has yet to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup, but he’s assembling a mighty team for his assault on the Cotswold feature this time.
Djakadam has generally overtaken stablemate Vautour in the betting and rightly so.
Last year’s Gold Cup runner up treated some serious rivals with disdain in the John Durkan at Punchestown last Sunday.
Don Poli dug deep to beat Many Clouds – which ran a cracker – at Aintree and it’s hard to know just how good he can be.
Everyone keeps saying that he only does what he has to do, and that’s not a bad way of keeping your powder dry until the big day.
He is proven at Cheltenham and stays longer than the mother in law.
Certainly he will be steaming relentlessly up that famous hill when many will be wilting.
That trio gives Mullins a formidable arsenal but there’s more.
Sir Des Champs was runner up to Bobs Worth in the 2013 Gold Cup – Mullins has trained the second home for the last three seasons – and is considered back to near his best already.
Certainly his comeback win at Thurles last month was highly impressive, and he could give some of his currently more highly rated stablemates plenty to think about in the Lexus.
Indeed the only reason he didn’t line up in the John Durkan was that it came too soon after Thurles.
Should he make waves at Leopardstown – where he won the Irish Hennessy two years back – then his current Gold Cup odds of 33/1 won’t last jig time.
Perhaps what recommends him most is his Cheltenham Festival record.
At the Festival he has won the Martin Pipe (in hindsight what a “good thing” he was in that) and the Jewson as well as finishing second in the Gold Cup.
And believe it or not Mullins has yet another potential Gold Cup ace up his sleeve.
Having discussed his Gold Cup options after the John Durkan he added, unprompted, “and don’t forget Valseur Lido, there could be a lot more to come from him.”
Indeed. He may have been slightly under cooked when a respectable second to Djakadam on Sunday.
Not sure if he needed the run mind you as he scored impressively on his seasonal debut in the previous two seasons.
And while there is a school of thought that he’s better racing left handed, he has won five times going the other way.
But he certainly did not enjoy the heavy ground at Punchestown, and he’s guaranteed to get the Gold Cup trip.
That fact that Mullins, on a weekend where Djakadam and Don Poli excelled, warns us not to dismiss his chances is a tip in itself.
ANTE POST – CHELTENHAM GOLD CUP
Sir Des Champs 1 pt. each way 33/1 William Hill, Ladbrokes, Betway OR (recommended) 25/1 Sky Bet non runner no bet.
Valseur Lido 1 pt. each way 33/1 generally; 57/1 Betfair Exchange; 71/1 Betdaq OR (recommended) 25/1 Sky Bet non runner no bet.
Back next Saturday.
Irish Racing Club