Nobody was more surprised that Faugheen was beaten last Sunday but nobody should have been more prepared for it than me.
I just underestimated Nichols Canyon who I’d ridden to win three of his four Grade One races last year. He shouldn’t have been underestimated.
Their homework suggested that Faugheen was further forward than Nichols Canyon but it looks like the winner kept his performance for the racecourse. Faugheen jumped well but slightly missed the second last whereas Nichols Canyon winged it. That could have been the difference between winning and losing.
I can’t explain why Faugheen hung on the race to the line. He’s been 100 per cent since. Maybe Nichols Canyon was just sharper, more battle-hardened on the day. It was a very good performance and he got a great ride from David Mullins.
One thing’s for sure – I won’t be underestimating him again.
Vat’s more like it
Vautour looked very well this morning and hopefully he’ll get his season off to a winning start in the Amlin Chase at Ascot.
He will come on for the run but with Down Royal winner Ptit Zig in the field it won’t be a gentle saunter around the Berkshire track.
There’s also the option to run in Punchestown’s John Durkan Memorial Chase next month if he doesn’t travel to Ascot. Douvan is ready to go and could possibly start his chasing career at Navan this weekend.
Betfair Chase, Haydock Saturday
The Betfair Chase at Haydock is always a good contest and Silviniaco Conti, Cue Card & Dynaste all taking each other on again.
Conti has won it twice in the past three seasons with Cue Card interrupting the hat-trick in 2013.
The only weak link in his form is the Cheltenham Gold Cup but he’s very good everywhere else. Cue Card’s best form often comes early in the season while David Pipe’s Dynaste is the ‘nearly’ horse who seems to hit the crossbar more than the back of the net. Pipe also has Ballynagour entered who went down to Conti by just a head at Aintree the last time they met.
But after his comeback run over hurdles I’d favour SILVINIACO CONTI to win it.
Irving and Top Notch head the market in the hurdle race on the card but it’s always harder for the younger horses at this time of the year. I’d sooner trust IRVING’S Wincanton form and race-fitness than Top Notch’s potential in a race like this so early in the season.
Back for the Future
Neill Mullholland’s Shantou Village imperssed me a lot last Friday when beating Champers on Ice at Cheltenham’s Open meeting.
He jumped and galloped and won on merit and could be one to pitch up in the Neptune Novice Hurdle next March.
I was very taken with Jonjo O’Neill’s former World Hurdle winner More of That. He was ultra-professional and is the only horse in training who ever beat Annie Power. That win had Festival performance written all over it.
Sprinter Sacre looked very good on Sunday and back to the Sprinter Sacre of old. He got tired going up the hill but you would expect that on his first run of the season.
He was getting 10lbs off Mr Mole but it was the manner of the win – rather than the form of it – that made you sit up and take notice.
He had all his old zip back – the ‘wow factor’ looked to be there again.
It’s hard to compare the bare form of that run with Simonsig’s comeback defeat to Bobs Worth (after a long absence).
But after that performance you’d be mad not to pick Sprinter Sacre if you’d the choice between them with next month’s Tingle Creek in mind .