Strange the ways of the betting world sometimes.
I certainly find it surprising after Leopardstown that the Cheltenham odds of Un De Sceaux remain unchanged while Don Poli’s have been pushed out.
It’s all very well to say that Un De Sceaux is like Moscow Flyer – if he doesn’t fall, he wins – but to my mind he was not travelling particularly well by his standards when he took a tumble at the second last.
Yes, Ruby Walsh may have been giving him a breather.
But is it not just slightly worrying that a horse who is such skinny odds for the Champion Chase was only a couple of lengths up on Simply Ned and Flemenstar at the time.
True, the latter was a real hero when with Peter Casey , but, two trainers later now, he has seemed very much a light of other days.
Certainly if I’m reading the body language right, neither Ruby nor Willie Mullins were exactly overjoyed afterwards.
Understandably so, of course. And not even the win of Long Dog – what a tough and classy customer he is! – lifted the mood too much.
Why people keep picking holes in the form of Don Poli I just don’t know.
It’s hardly a state secret that he only does what’s required.
He was asked some really searching questions in the Lexus, indeed Bryan Cooper thought that their goose was cooked before the last.
But the horse showed guts and attitude to rally and tough it out against some serious and battle hardened rivals.
And those who believe in the long arm of coincidence must wonder if the horse that finally gave Mullins his first Lexus could also be the one to break his Gold Cup hoodoo.
He does nothing spectacular and will never take your breath away, but in racing handsome is very much as handsome does.
Don Poli is Cheltenham proven, will prefer the likely better ground and will be still steaming up that famous hill when many others will have cried enough.
It’s a long time since Aidan O’Brien trained a Cheltenham Festival winner, but in Ivanovich Gorbatov he has a serious Triumph Hurdle prospect.
Or should we say Joseph has. For Aidan makes no secret of the fact that it’s Joseph that supervises the training of the jumping string.
O’Brien Jnr hasn’t got his full training license yet as the second part of his qualifying course last year coincided with the Breeder’s Cup.
Make no mistake though Joseph has every intention of a career training the jumping squad in Pilltown from where Aidan sent out Istabraq to glory all those years ago.
Alan King is assembling a fair squad for the Triumph, with Kempton scorer Gibralfaro – which came from the same source as former stable star Walkon – joining Sceau Royal and Who Dares Win in a formidable trio.
By his own high standards, popular local owner Barry Connell had a quiet enough Leopardstown Christmas Festival.
Yet Chain Gang certainly impressed when coming from off the pace to beat Aidan O’Brien’s Minella Aris and odds on jolly Road To Respect.
Mind you he needed every yard of the two and a half miles to do so.
So when trainer Alan Fleming said afterwards that he could go either up or down in trip he was probably only half right!
Just as interesting though was his assertion that the winner wouldn’t mind better ground, and that certainly opens up more options.
The Ryanair Hurdle was an absolute cracker.
Nichols Canyon is a tough nut, and in that tight finish having the rail and Ruby Walsh made all the difference.
But Identity Thief lost absolutely nothing in defeat.
Henry de Bromhead always had high hopes for the Champion Hurdle with this lad, even before he won the Fighting Fifth.
Faugheen still sets the standard though, and both he and stablemate Douvan in the Arkle will certainly be Irish bankers in March.
Many will see Un De Sceaux in the Champion Chase in the same light but he’s much too short a price for me on current evidence.
The re emergence of both Sprinter Sacre and Sire De Grugy has been heart warming.
Yet a horse that stayed in his box over the Festive season Special Tiara catches the eye value wise.
Stan James Champion Hurdle – Identity Thief 2 pts each way 16/1 Stan James, Ladbrokes, Coral.
Betway Champion Chase – Special Tiara 2 pts. each way 16/1 Boylesports
Timico Gold Cup – Don Poli 4 pts win 6/1 generally
Back next Saturday.
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