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Ruby Walsh exclusive: Djakadam’s inexperience rather than his age is my concern in the Hennessy Gold Cup

A Saturday treble at Ascot. Vautour glides in at Navan. And Ruby's on the big-race fav in the Hennessy Gold Cup. What's not to love?

by Ruby Walsh | November 24, 2014

The pundits are saying that Djakadam can’t win the Hennessy Gold Cup on Saturday because he’s only a five-year-old.

They said Master Minded couldn’t win a Champion Chase when he was that age. He did – so the stats are there to be broken.

A bigger worry for me is that he has just three runs over fences and is inexperienced for a race like this.

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Ahead of the handicapper

We’re hoping that Djakadam is well handicapped but he hasn’t done anything to deserve a higher mark of 142. You’re guessing that if he hadn’t fallen in the Grade One JLT Novices Chase last March won by Taquin Du Seuil he may have gone very close.

From where I was sitting (just in behind on Felix Yonger) he seemed to be travelling well enough when he tipped up four out.

It’s a Catch 22 situation. If he had the experience he wouldn’t have the mark he’s on now. I’m hopeful he has the class to overcome that.

He has always shaped like a three-miler and is in good form at home.

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The dangers

Many Clouds looks a player with a run under his belt and beat Eduard and the hood-less Holywell at Carlisle. Philip Hobbs’ Fingal Bay looks well handicapped over fences and won the Pertemps Final at the Festival last season.

The RSA Chase has traditionally been a good ‘trial’ for this. Previous winners like Denman and Bobs Worth followed up at Newbury and Alan King’s Smad Place brings Group One form to this handicap.

So does Paul Nicholls’ Rocky Creek who ran very well at Down Royal when second to Road to Riches in a Grade One contest. He was second in this last season to Triolo D’alene (who looks exposed now) on his debut so must have a chance again although he’s at the top of the weights.

The Druids Nephew had a tough race when second to Sam Winner a fortnight ago at Cheltenham in heavy ground. I’d be concerned this contest may come too soon.

Ballynagour’s best form is over shorter trips – though he is a point-point winner. Former Welsh Grand National winner Monbeg Dude relishes a stamina test but tends to clout the odd fence or two.

It’s a big ask for Djakadam  – but I think he has a favourite’s chance. Others can decide the price.

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Champion performance?

Faugheen only did what was asked of him at Ascot but you could say the same about The New One at Haydock. The quicker he went the better he jumped and he’ll improve for that the next day. It’s early in the season and he’s going the right way.

I don’t think there was any more merit in what Faugheen did at Ascot compared to what The New One did at Haydock. I’d be pretty sure that Hurricane Fly or Jezki could have done the same.

They were two ideal races for Champion Hurdle contenders at this time of the year and they both answered the question that was asked of them.

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The madness of the King George

Al Ferof put in a very good display at Ascot on Saturday. Paul (Nicholls) was worried about his level of fitness before the race and thinks there’s improvement to come for the King George at Kempton on December 26th.

I thought Silviniaco Conti would win at Haydock and he did it well. He wasn’t beaten too far in the Cheltenham Gold Cup last year and if he’s in that sort of form with conditions to suit next March – he’ll be a major player again.

Conti made it a real test of stamina and was upsides Cue Card all the way.

I don’t think they did it to test Cue Card’s jumping – they did it to test his stamina by making it a truly-run race.

Who’ll win between the Nicholls pair if they both turn up in the King George over Christmas?

They’re different types. Al Ferof is probably the quicker but then ‘Conti’ is a really good stayer. Champagne Fever has to improve to get up to those two and it’s going to be some race at Kempton on December 26 if they all turn up.

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Vat’s a job well done

I love Vautour. I think he’s a gorgeous horse and  I was delighted with his performance at Navan on Sunday.

He traveled really well and jumped super. Sam Twiston-Davies spoke about the ‘relief’ when The New One won and I can identify with that to an extent.

There is a slight sense of relief. You know they’re good horses and you don’t want to see them get beaten. But you have to enjoy it too.

Granted it was only a Beginners’ Chase and how carried away can you get? But on his first start of the season and on his first try in public over fences he passed it with flying colours.

He’s versatile. He can go up in trip and he’ll tell us what his best distance is over the next couple of runs. We’ll see where we are at around Christmas.

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He made a very promising start to his hurdling career at Fairyhouse last week. Travelled well, jumped well did what was asked. Will have to step up again the next day but that’s what you want to see.  The unbeaten Tell Us More was equally as impressive at Gowran Park.

This last week has really seen Willie’s horses kick on. They say it’s a long time in politics but it’s as long in horse racing too. There’s plenty to build on and look forward to.

Un de Sceaux has as much the same preparation and schooling done as Vatour so hopefully it all goes as well for him on Thursday at Thurles.

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