Both Un de Sceaux and Don Poli pitch up in the UK this weekend on their seasonal bows.
There’s no great mystery to why they (& Vautour) started their campaigns in England. They could have started at the likes of Naas and Down Royal but they just weren’t fit enough last month after the dry summer and Autumn we had in Ireland.
And with the Christmas Festivals just around the corner, it’s important to get a run into them somewhere so I’ll be heading to Sandown to ride Un de Sceaux in the Tingle Creek Chase while RSA champ Don Poli starts off his Gold Cup campaign at Aintree.
It makes life easier that Sprinter Sacre isn’t running on Saturday but most of his other intended rivals like Vibrato Valtat, Special Tiara , Sire De Grugy and Simonsig have all had a run.
It’s not ideal starting off in a Grade One Chase but he has to start somewhere. He’s in great form and schooled very well at Thurles after racing last week.
Un de Sceaux has a lot of work done at home and is probably a little more forward than Vautour was a fortnight ago when he won at Ascot – but I’s still expect him to improve throughout the season.
Everyone knows by know that he has one style of running and you know what you’re going to get when he tanks off in front.
But that could suit the likes of Paul Nicholls’ Vibrato Valtat in particular who looks the biggest danger to me.
He’s a fair bit to find with us on Arkle form last March but he’s open to the most improvement and won the Grade One Novices’ Chase here last season.
Simonsig will be a different proposition now back over fences than when getting chinned by Bobs Worth over hurdles last time at Aintree.
He was always a much better chaser than he was hurdler so 2m around Sandown will be right up his street. But there’s always the risk of the bounce factor after such a long absence.
Gary Moore’s team are making confident noises that former Champion Chaser Sire De Grugy has turned the corner and Henry De Bromhead’s Special Tiara is an interesting contender.
He’s already a Grade One winner at the track and had Vibrato Valtat a fair bit back in fourth that day – although the Nicholls’ runner didn’t get the clearest of runs.
I suppose Don Poli could have run in the 2m 4f John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown on Sunday but with Djakadam and Valsuer Lido are entered there – it makes more sense for last season’s RSA champ to travel to Aintree.
A 3m stamina test around the Liverpool track on soft ground should suit him more than Sunday’s 2m 4f contest in Co Kildare.
Last season’s Hennessy Gold Cup and Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Many Clouds is among the entries so it will be no walkover. Although Grand National winners haven’t a great record after their big day in April.
There’s a few Irish entries on the card at Aintree and Tony Martin’s Heathfield looks a play in the Becher Chase. I’d ignore his last run in the Grade 2 Boyne Hurdle as he’s best judged on two good staying performances at Navan and Punchestown and could still be improving over fences.
Irish Grand National winner Thunder and Roses is a strong stayer and jumps well and the form the Gigginstown House horses are in at the moment he’d have to have a chance. While Tom George’s Saint Are seems to like the place and was second in the National behind Many Clouds and had a decent pipe-opener behind Josies Orders at the Cheltenham Open Meeting last month.
Mouse Morris’ Dromnea is very consistent and could be worth a look at in the Grand Sefton Handicap on the same card. He probably didn’t stay the trip in the 3m Troytown Handicap at Navan last week but this 2m 5f test should suit him better.
Weekend eye catchers …
Wicklow Brave could have been feeling the effects of a long, hard season at Newcastle last weekend but take nothing away from the winner, Identity Thief. He would have won three or four lengths if he didn’t make the mistake at the last and showed plenty of stamina and guts to get back up on the line to beat Top Notch.
He’s a Grade One winner now on merit and is going the right way. He could still be improving and that combination of speed and stamina should stand to him in the Champion Hurdle. He looks overpriced to me anyway at .
I was just as taken with Monksland as I was with No More Heroes in the Drinmore Novice Chase. No More Heroes certainly jumped better than him and should appreciate a step up in trip to three miles. But Monksland never gave up despite some sketchy jumping after a quick reappearance from his Gowran Park win.
However, if No More Heroes is now favourite for the RSA Chase next March on the strength of that, then you’d have to say that More of That looks the value play and could be worth backing before he runs again.