Resident horse racing guru, Jordan McCarthy, is back with this week’s PA Pony Talk.
Nicholls’ Star Could Still Land the Buck’s in March
Saturday’s Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham threw up three things. Firstly, it showed that there are no certainties in racing; a 66/1 outsider landed the spoils and in doing so turned over a short-priced superstar, Big Buck’s. Second of all, Sam Twiston Davies came in for criticism that was almost inevitable if Big Buck’s was beaten. Finally, and on a more positive note, the runner-up At Fishers Cross showed a return to form, after recent disappointments on the racecourse.
Well done to the Knockara Beau team who landed the big race and it is good to see one of last year’s top novices At Fishers Cross put in a good run to finish a close second.
However, post race reaction was all geared towards Big Buck’s being turned over, bringing his 18 race unbeaten run to an end. Sure, it was a surprise that the horse came up short, but he was not exactly hammered.
As for the man on board, he will have learned a lot. Daryl Jacob as good as turned down the ride. The Wexford man branded the potential mount as a ‘poisoned chalice’, referring to the fact that, whatever any jockey did aboard the horse, it was a no-win situation.
Ruby Walsh was always going to be a tough act to follow, but Sam Twiston-Davies did quite well on Saturday. People questioned young Twiston-Davies’ decision to make his move so soon and send Big Buck’s to the front about a mile out. Hindsight is of course a great thing but the jockey did not make a complete hash of things. Ruby Walsh has come out and backed the 21 year old, saying that he would not have done anything differently had he been in the saddle. ‘Race rustiness’, according to Walsh, was the reason for the son of Cadoudal being beaten.
The horse clearly needed the run and the ground was very soft. The 11 year-old was also having his first run in well over a year. He was not race fit, simple as. Trainer Paul Nicholls was even having doubts running him on such heavy ground.
When a high-profile horse loses, the Armageddon philosophy begins to set in. That need not always be the case. Some horses need the run on their return from a break. Just look at Bobs Worth and Cue Card this season.
Big Buck’s was beaten but let’s not write him off just yet. It is a positive that he is back racing. Come March 13th, the Ladbrokes World Hurdle could be on its way back to Ditcheat, after a short break across the water. A fifth World Hurdle? Now wouldn’t that be a story.
Dark Horse in Champion set to be on Sceaux at Sandown
The race that is on everyone’s lips this year is the Champion Hurdle. Hurricane Fly remains on course to defend his crown but will face formidable opposition at the Cotswolds. So far, we have seen good and not so good trials from the young pretenders in the Champion Hurdle entries, but one horse still has plenty of mystery surrounding his credentials.
That horse is Un De Sceaux. The Willie Mullins-trained gelding is due to appear at Sandown this Saturday in a race that could see him do battle with Melodic Rendezvous. Punters are no doubt a little surprised to see him cross the Irish Sea so soon, but Mullins has had several runners in Britain this season already.
Un De Sceaux has done everything that has been asked of him. He looks a pretty smart hurdler as well. However, the French-bred gelding has not beaten much yet. Sure, he had Foildubh behind him last time out but that horse ran below par.
Ruby Walsh is unlikely to get off of The Fly to take the ride but his comments following Un De Sceaux’s recent win – ‘if he runs, The New One’s connections won’t need to worry about running a pacemaker’- send shivers down the spine.
This horse has got pace. He has been likened to Make A Stand, who landed the big race under a bold front-running ride from AP McCoy in 1997.
Un De Sceaux is very much the dark horse in this year’s Champion Hurdle. Saturday should give us a better idea of just how good he is, and he will face strong opposition in Melodic Rendezvous who relishes soft ground. Whatever happens, it is hard to see his price- currently 12/1- extremely shortening. However, he will make it a test in March and could give them all something to think about.
Pundit Arena, Jordan McCarthy.
Featured Image By Carine06 (Flickr: Big Buck’s) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.