Quel Esprit looks ready to rock and roll
By Ruby Walsh
It’s great that the Gold Cup has been rescheduled for today, having been cancelled on Wednesday, and I’m probably more confident about winning on Quel Esprit than I was three days ago.
I’m not trying to say Quel Esprit is suddenly catching pigeons at home or anything like that. No, my reasoning is simply the form of Willie Mullins’ horses.
They are absolutely running out of their skins and that’s exactly what you want when facing into a big race.
Quel Esprit has got his act together over fences this season and has done just about everything right.
It has been well documented that Paul Townend wasn’t happy with the horse the morning of the Cheltenham Gold Cup and Willie withdrew him.
But he has been going nicely of late and has schooled well. He’s in good shape and ready to rock and roll.
We know Rubi Light will love the ground, but it will be especially testing on the chase track and will he get the three miles and a furlong?
The ground is against Follow The Plan, who won at Aintree last time. But Oliver McKiernan’s horses are in serious order, so he cannot be in any way dismissed.
Quantitativeeasing has a bit to find on ratings and may not be in love with the surface either. But he is trained by Nicky Henderson and has hardly come here for the good of his health.
After the Gold Cup, I was faced with a number of choices and there is no certainty I’ve got any of them right.
First up was the Grade 1 hurdle for juveniles and here I gave preference to Ut de Sivola over Darroun.
Ut de Sivola pulled up in the Triumph at Cheltenham and ran badly as well prior to that at Leopardstown, so isn’t easy to fancy, I suppose.
But twice he has run crackers on winter ground and I’m just hoping returns to that sort of form.
The reason I deserted Darroun is because I just feel he’s a good ground horse and may struggle on this surface.
Balder Success represents Alan King and will be ridden by Choc Thornton. Choc, who is a good judge, really rates him and that is a major consideration.
Dermot Weld’s Hisaabaat was a solid second in the Triumph, but I just hope the ground takes the edge off him.
I had to pick between Vast Consumption and Gorgeous Sixty, in the Grade 3 for mares, and have gone with the latter.
This looks particularly competitive, with black type on offer. I was happy with Gorgeous Sixty’s second to Ballynacree at Fairyhouse.
She travelled and jumped a lot better than previously, is honest, getting stronger and, I think, will stay.
Vast Consumption will definitely stay, but is a small filly and I just felt 11-5 might prove a bit much for her. I could be all wrong, of course.
Willie has no less than six in the valuable two and a half mile handicap hurdle and here I have gone with Marito.
He came from France with a big reputation and then finished fifth of five behind Oilily at Cork.
There was no pace in that race, he was a bit free and I rode him for speed. I’d say he’s a stayer and the likely swinging gallop now will be more his cup of tea.
Here’s my opinion on Willie’s other five, starting with Immediate Response. He’s won three in-a-row and is heavily penalised.
I think Inspector Clouseau and Drive Time want better ground, while Sergent Guib’s has his share of weight.
Catleen refused to race for me here on Thursday and I wouldn’t be willing to put my eggs in that basket again.
Looking back on the overall campaign, I’d say I had a good season, without scaling the heights. The highlight had to be Kauto Star winning a fifth King George at Kempton.
It was a remarkable training feat by Paul Nicholls and all the team at Ditcheat, with a horse who looked a has-been leaving Punchestown a year ago.
I have to mention Big Buck’s, who is awesome, and the mighty Quevega, who was superb here on Thursday.
Quevega was quite brilliant, but I wouldn’t for a second want to knock Voler La Vedette. That mare had a very hard race against Big Buck’s at Cheltenham and getting into a scrap with him can’t half leave a mark.
And on the debate as to whether Quevega should take on Big Buck’s then I am completely against it.
Your immediate reaction may well be that I would say that, because I ride both of them. But that’s not really the point.
Amateurs like to take part, but we are professionals and it’s all about winning. Finishing second is no good!
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