Wicklow Brave looks tastyat 14/1 for Supreme Novices

Wicklow Brave and Ruby Walsh easily see off Lieutenant Colonel at Punchestown last weekend. Picture: Healy Racing
Wicklow Brave and Ruby Walsh easily see off Lieutenant Colonel at Punchestown last weekend. Picture: Healy Racing

When a horse does a number of things wrong through a race and still wins in a canter then you have to sit up and take notice.

That was very much the case with Willie Mullins’ Wicklow Brave, who was so impressive at Punchestown last Sunday.

I thought Dessie Hughes’ Lieutenant Colonel would have the legs on him and couldn’t believe the manner in which Wicklow Brave annihilated his principal rival.

Wicklow Brave was a bit too free, at least in the early stages, and his jumping, on occasions, was sloppy.

He didn’t exactly fly the second last and was seriously awkward over the final flight. But nothing was going to stop the massively progressive five-year-old and he basically laughed at Lieutenant Colonel in the closing stages.

We know he went into the race as the winner of three bumpers and a maiden hurdle - at Cork - but it was still hard to anticipate a performance of this quality.

Lieutenant Colonel did just about everything right and certainly got first run on the winner early in the straight.

But Wicklow Brave closed him down in effortless fashion and the way he picked up at the back of the last, after turning somewhat sideways at the obstacle, was most impressive.

This week, he was still available as high as 14-1 for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, and there are worse bets.

All the evidence indicates he will be even more effective on better ground and there is every chance conditions will suit at the festival.

The problem, of course, is that the Supreme Novices’ shapes as one of the hardest races of all to solve at the meeting.

When one notes that a horse who has been good to us all season, The Tullow Tank, is the favourite - as high as 8-1 - then that tells you all you need to know.

The plus side, however, is that, unlike many of the Mullins Cheltenham contingent, this will definitely be Wicklow Brave’s target. And that’s not a bad starting point.

After Arvika Ligeonniere had strolled to victory in a Grade 2 at Punchestown, he was immediately nominated for a tilt at the two-mile Champion Chase at Cheltenham.

And why not, with major doubts surrounding the once invincible Sprinter Sacre. But you have still to think it’s a case of tilting at windmills all of the same.

I did my dough on Arvika at Leopardstown at Christmas, when he could only take third behind Benefficient and Hidden Cyclone.

I know he had a lot less on his plate at Punchestown, but at the same time you could not escape the feeling it was like watching a different horse.

And it was, because Arvika Ligeonniere is simply far happier travelling right-handed and no amount of protestation to the contrary by those closest to the horse will change the mind of this observer.

That was a smart bit of training on the part of Conor O’Dwyer to get Folsom Blue to land the three-and-a-half-mile National Trial at Punchestown.

Folsom Blue was a more-than-useful hurdler, who seemed to lose his way a little and was then absent for almost a year until returning over fences at Navan in December.

He duly had the requisite three outings at that game and was then handed a rating of 127, hardly overly generous you would have thought.

O’Dwyer gave Folsom Blue the third of his pops over fences in a two-miler at Thurles, beaten about 46 lengths when eighth of 15 finishers behind Mount Colah, before stepping him up no less than 12 furlongs in trip at Punchestown.

He won quite easily, by three and a half lengths, but the handicapper has remained rather sanguine and Folsom Blue will race off a mark just 7lbs higher in the future.

It was hard to hold back the tears after Si C’Etait Vrai had departed at the final fence at Fairyhouse last Saturday.

Available at over 7-4 on Betfair, to beat his only serious rival - Suntiep - this represented real value.

When he survived a blunder two out, well you quickly thought that’s the mistake out of way and flicking across the last will be a mere formality.

Instead of engaging in a spot of flicking, however, our intrepid hero decided to try and kill the fence and was lucky he didn’t kill himself.

Cue many minutes of staring into space, wondering where it had all gone wrong. Facing Si C’etait Vrai again just won’t be easy.

On the same card, Gordon Elliott’s Halling’s Treasure got run over by the year older Shantou Ed in a maiden hurdle, beaten three and three quarter lengths into second.

The form is undoubtedly ordinary, but, that said, Halling’s Treasure has to be marked down as a sure-fire future winner, especially when meeting some decent ground.

One to avoid in the future surely is Noel Meade’s Chancol, who was a 1-2 shot when taking a maiden hurdle at Punchestown on Sunday.

He simply did not impress with his attitude and had to be kidded and cajoled to victory by Paul Carberry.

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