WE saw a lovely performance from Un De Sceaux at Navan on Sunday and the winner, who we at first left unchanged at 14-1 for the Champion Hurdle in March before cutting him to a current 12-1, adds yet another string to Willie Mullins’s bow as he also has reigning champion Hurricane Fly and possibly Annie Power for the race.
It’s extremely difficult to know exactly what to make of the performance as he only beat two rivals, but third-placed Foildubh, beaten a country mile, is no back number as he beat Rubi Ball at Thurles in November.
I’m not sure if he’s a serious Champion Hurdle candidate yet and I’m looking forward to learning more when he probably lines up in the Red Mills Hurdle at Gowran Park on February 15, although perhaps I’m wrong as one fine office judge sent me an email stating: “This wins the Champion Hurdle!”
But as we’re now non runner money back on this event, if he messes up in the Red Mills he’s unlikely to run in the Champion so punters will get their hard-earned back and if he wins, he’ll go to Cheltenham at shorter odds.
I normally only cover the very best English races, but regulars will know that Carlow conjuror Shark Hanlon often helps with this column and I think the big man has a great chance of landing Saturday’s Clarence House Chase at Ascot with Hidden Cyclone.
This fellow has been back to his best this season and after landing a chase at Listowel in September, he has come close to winning two of our marquee races, finishing third to Johns Spirit in the Paddy Power Gold Cup before going one better behind Benefficient in the Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas.
Shark actually launched an appeal against that latest result as he thinks if the two horses had run straight to the line, his guy would have prevailed, but it was ruled that the result stands.
Being the sporting gent that he is, Shark now says that “it’s water under the bridge and onwards and upwards,” but it was an absolutely savage effort, in my humble opinion, and given that he will get soft ground at Ascot, I think that he has a massive shout.
Trainer Stuart Crawford has been in fine fettle with five winners in the last fortnight, including Aibrean who justified favouritism in a mares beginners chase at Naas and I think that she can go in again in the Grade 2 mares novice chase at Thurles on Thursday.
While this 10-year-old might be better on better ground, it was soft enough when she won at Naas, but the extra furlong this time can only help and in the future she could be even better over three miles as that was the distance she won her point-to-point over. I was impressed by her jumping last time and she could have a good season before then going to the breeding shed.
Turning to the footy last week I took on West Ham and when they were smashed by Manchester City on Wednesday, I admit to feeling pretty pleased with myself!
But credit where credit is due and Sam Allardyce’s players looked like a group who would march through a brick wall for their boss when gaining a well-needed three points at Cardiff and probably saving Big Sam’s job in the process.
With skipper Mark Noble possibly putting in the performance of the weekend and picking up a well-deserved goal and Andy Carroll returning to the game off the bench, I’m going to reverse last week’s opinion and back them to master Newcastle at 2-1 at Upton Park on Saturday.
Thursday Thurles 2.15pm Aibrean
Saturday Upton Park 3pm West Ham to beat Newcastle
Saturday Ascot 3.35pm Hidden Cyclone