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Ruby Walsh: I’m not looking beyond Vautour in the King George VI Chase but have a choice to make in the Ryanair Hurdle

Top jock Ruby Walsh swaps mince pies for red-eye flights ahead of the Christmas Racing smash-up at Kempton and Leopardstown.

by Ruby Walsh | December 22, 2015

I schooled Vautour on Monday and he’s in good form ahead of a tilt at the King George VI Chase at Kempton on December 26.

There’s been a few making an issue of his jumping at Ascot – where he edged to the left – but the more I think about it he did the same at Cheltenham in the Supreme Novices Hurdle. That didn’t hinder him too much.

He made the running at Ascot but the King George will be run at a really good gallop. There’s a lot of pace in the race so there’ll be an end-to-end gallop. He’ll need to prove his stamina that’s for sure but the history of the race tells us the best horse usually wins.

It will be just the second time Vautour has raced in ‘open’ company over fences and he’s taking on seasoned campaigners like Silviniaco Conti, Cue CArd, Al Ferof and Smad Place who are more battle-hardened and experienced than him.

It’s going to be a great race and I’d have a lot of respect for Don Cossack. He’s the highest-rated chaser in trainer and even though we can all give out about the handicapper at times – they tend not to be too far wrong.

Willie is also likely to send over Valseur Lido has improved on his first run behind Djakadam, won over 3m at Punchestown as a novice last season and is no back number to hit the frame.

Will Vautour still be a Gold Cup contender if he doesn’t win the King George? That depends.

If he travels well, jumps super then falls in a hole before the last then you’d maybe conclude he didn’t stay. If he got beaten in a three-way photo then you’d probably argue he did.

But that’s speculation for afterwards. I’m not looking beyond Saturday’s showpiece.

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FAUGHEEN

Unusually for Faugheen he’s coming here on the back of a defeat – his first – but we’re very happy with him. He won this race last year and went on to win the Champion Hurdle. I’m hoping he does the same again and there’s no reason why he can’t. It was disappointing to get beaten at Punchestown by Nicholls Canyon. There’s no denying that.

But we’ll be doing our best to make sure it doesn’t happen again on Saturday.

DOUVAN

This is a good race and I’ll miss it because I’m at Kempton. Douvan was a better novice hurdler than both Sizing John and Ttebbob but Jessica Harrington’s runner in particular has been very impressive in his two chase starts this season. He’ll take a fair bit of following at the Foxrock track as he races away in front.

Usually the best horses can come off a strong gallop in a true-run race so this should suit Douvan and Paul Townend.

FOOTPAD

He was very good at Gowran Park on soft ground on his first start for us but this looks a hot race.

Colin Kidd’s Rashaan won very well at Fairyhouse beating me 13l aboard the odds-on Missy Tata while there’s plenty of chat about Gordon Elliott’s French-import Campeador who has yet to run in Ireland.

Paddy Power Day, Leopardstown, December 27

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Let’s Dance is a nice filly who goes well at home and we like her. But Maiden Hurdles at Leopardstown are keenly contested and there’ll be others thinking the same thing.

UN DE SCEAUX, Sunday 1.15pm

He’s going to have to do it the hard way now by starting off in the Grade One Paddy Power ipad App Chase but he was going to have to do that at Sandown in the Tingle Creek Chase anyway before he was ruled out.

It’s well known that he has one style of running so he’ll bomb off in front and it’s up to the others to adapt their game if they want to beat him.

Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle 1.45pm

I (just about) got it right between Long Dog and Bachasson at Fairyhouse the last day but it will be a tough call between them again on December 27. We’ve a few entries at this stage and you never know if the strict form of that race will hold up again. There wasn’t much in it and one leap could decide it.

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Paddy Power Chase 2.55pm

I always thought there was a big handicap in Dogorra but it hasn’t worked out and fell in this contest last year. He’s been over the Cross Country fences recently and was fourth when he unseated at the last at Cheltenham in November but needs a career best to win here.

If I had the choice I’d like to ride Gilgamboa who ran well behind Djakadam and Vlasuer Lido in the John Durkan Memorial Chase. He’s running in a handicap now and even though he has 11-10 – the bottom weight is going to be off 10-7.

He has the class and will love the 3m trip. He’s a Grade One winner running in a handicap and could be hard to beat.

It’s a similar story with O’Faolain’s Boy in the Welsh Grand National 3.25pm  – a race I think you actually need more stamina for than the Aintree National – even though it’s a mile longer trip in Liverpool.

The ground is usually bottomless and the undulations can make it harder to make up ground so you just gallop and gallop and gallop.

Certain stables like Kerry Lee target it and won it before with Mountainous when her father trained it.  I won’t be there so haven’t studied it that closely but it wouldn’t surprise me if one of those won.

Lexus Chase, December 28

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Gigginstown have Don Poli and Sir Des Champs in Monday’s Grade One feature at Leopardstown and I could be on the one that Bryan Cooper doesn’t ride. His choice looks to be more between Don Poli and last year’s Gold Cup second Road to Riches from Noel Meade’s yard and it’s a tough call.

Carlingford Lough would need to come back to the best of his Hennessy-winning form at this track last February on AP McCoy’s final visit. I would have liked to have seem him have a run recently.

Ryanair Hurdle, December 29

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I haven’t decided yet between Arctic Fire and Nicholls Canyon  in the Ryanair Hurdle on 29 December – and it’s going to be a close call.

Both are slick, brave jumpers and jumping ability won’t be the deciding factor for me. Henry De Bromhead’s Identity Thief was a good winner of the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle and would have been even more convincing if he had jumped the last cleaner. But he will improve for that experience.

There’s little margin for error in this contest as they’re all proven Grade One horses now.

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