A weekend of trials that has thrown up as many questions as we enter the home straight for Cheltenham 2014.
Hurricane Fly keeps winning ugly but Captain Cee Bee’s proximity in the Irish Champion Hurdle means a little grey cloud hangs over his bid for a third Champion Hurdle crown.
The challengers are lining up though and while My Tent or Yours may have one more run – the big guns are primed for March 11. If Willie Mullins was a poker place he’d have the best hand at the table right now with Un de Sceaux and Annie Power still in the mix and the biggest challenge to the Fly’s three-timer may be looking over the half-door at him in Co Carlow.
Big Buck’s looked to have retained all his old sparkle as he set sail for home under new jock Sam Twiston-Davies only for the petrol tank to empty in the shadow of the post. Jumps fans were left staring in disbelief as 66/1 shocker Knockara Beau got his head in front of a rejuvenated At Fishers Cross who put in his best run of the season too tee up a crack at the World Hurdle.
A whole host of pretenders started the season gunning for Big Buck’s, Hurricane Fly, Sprinter Sacre and Bobs Worth. But, only last season’s Gold Cup winner goes into the Festival with his reputation fully intact after his Lexus stroll in December. Sprinter Sacre was pulled up at Kempton with an irregular heartbeat. Everything that was irregular then appears to be regular now January tests proved all was back to normal. But a decision on when – if ever – he’ll see a racecourse again has yet to be made.
A bug at this time of year is about as welcome as a house call from Dr. Conrad Murray and Nicky Henderson will have a few sleepless nights before his stable starts firing on all cylinders again. A runny nose can wreck the best-laid plans of even the shrewdest trainers as the business end of the jumps season gets ever closer.
Click on the names below for their timeline:
- At Fishers Cross >
- Big Buck’s >
- Bob’s Worth >
- Hurricane Fly >
- My Tent Or Yours >
- Our Conor >
- Sprinter Sacre >
- The New One >
Big guns in action
Earlier in the year we put together the likely season plans of eight stars of the jumps season. It was 10 originally but Simonsig was benched early doors by Nicky Henderson and Sir Des Champs resigned in protest at Davy Russell’s sacking.
In some cases we’ve gone on the horse’s previous campaigns, in others we’ve looked at the trainer’s preference when handling similar horses in the past and every now and then, the connections have just told us flat out what the plans are, which is nice because it saved us some work and meant we go knock off for lunch early.
It’s not perfect and it’s ultimately in the lap of the gods and whoever is in charge of doing the paperwork for entering horses into race, but it’s a start. Plus, if there’s any mistakes or changes, we’ll gloss over it and pretend we were right all along. Like any economist ever.