Cheltenham Festival - Wednesday preview
Un De Sceaux can show three previous winners the way home in a fascinating renewal of the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham.
Trainer Willie Mullins ruffled a few feathers when electing to bypass the 2014 Champion Hurdle with his free-going French import in favour of a quieter trip to France, but hindsight suggests that was probably the correct call as the eight-year-old appears at least slightly more tractable these days.
A brilliant winner of last year’s Arkle, Un De Sceaux has never been beaten in 14 completed starts, but the knockers will point to his two falls at Thurles last season and at Leopardstown over Christmas as evidence he is far from flawless.
However, on both occasions he was making his first appearance of the campaign and that freshness led to him being too keen and too brave. He ultimately paid the penalty.
But even the great Moscow Flyer ended up on the deck a few times and the truth is a lot of the very best two-mile chasers tread that fine line between triumph and disaster. It is what makes the division arguably the most compelling of them all.
There was no sign of a repeat of those errors when he slammed 2014 Champion Chaser Sire De Grugy at Ascot last month and with a clear round, it is hard to see the rest pegging him back in the main event on day two of the Festival.
Sprinter Sacre looked invincible at his peak, but it is three years since his mesmerising performance in this event and a lot has happened since.
Nicky Henderson has worked wonders to get him back on the track and there was not a dry eye in the house when he bolted up at Cheltenham in November, but while gallops reports have been positive of late, it is hard to believe he is back to his best and he might need to be if he is to reel in the Irish-trained favourite.
Dodging Bullets won a sub-standard renewal 12 months ago and was beaten on his comeback, while it is hard to see Sire De Grugy reversing Ascot form, although the fitting of blinkers make him an attractive each-way bet at decent odds.
Many see Alan King’s Yanworth as one of the bankers of the week in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle, but the Mullins-trained Yorkhill should make a race of it, stepping up in distance in what could be a race to savour.
Cheltenham: 1.30 Yorkhill, 2.10 More Of That, 2.50 Rock The Kasbah, 3.30 UN DE SCEAUX (NAP), 4.10 Josies Orders, 4.50 Campeador, 5.30 New To This Town.
Bangor: 2.25 Vodka Island, 3.05 Don’t Hang About, 3.45 Kilcullen Flem, 4.25 Celtic Artisan, 5.05 Cruising Bye, 5.40 Diamond Rock.
Kempton: 6.05 Lions Charge, 6.40 Voice From Above, 7.10 Celtic Ava, 7.40 Dangerous Thought, 8.10 Chelwood Gate, 8.40 Princess Cookie, 9.10 Chetan.
Southwell: 1.20 Sooqaan, 1.55 Lifting Me Higher, 2.35 Street Duel, 3.15 St Andrews, 3.55 Moon River, 4.35 Hello Beautiful, 5.15 Rampers, 5.50 Lucky Mark.
Double: Un De Sceaux and Josies Orders.