Right now, I harbour doubts about Gordon Elliott’s Battleoverdoyen

Right now, I harbour doubts about Gordon Elliott’s Battleoverdoyen

The reaction was entirely predictable, with bookmakers and press getting in line to enthuse about Gordon Elliott’s Battleoverdoyen, after the strapping six-year-old made an excellent chasing debut at Galway last Sunday.

And you can understand why the praise was essentially universal; basically what was not to like?

Bookmaker reaction was to slash his price for the RSA Chase at Cheltenham in March and this week he was on offer mostly at 12-1 and 14-1, from 33-1, although there was 20s in two places.

But that contest is months away and Battleoverdoyen has much to prove before being touted as a realistic possibility.

Right now, I harbour doubts about him though I can’t imagine my views will be shared by the majority.

In the lead-in to Cheltenham this year I was, arguably, Battleoverdoyen’s biggest fan and, from a fair way out, had him pencilled in as the likely winner of the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.

He went to Cheltenham on the back of a flawless record, four from four, starting with a smooth enough success in a point-to-point at Loughanmore.

The horse he beat that day was Court Liability, who soon found his way to England to be trained by Harry Whittington.

Court Liability’s first four races for Whittington saw him win a bumper and three over flights.

Battleoverdoyen was only four when winning his point and wasn’t seen again for 19 months, not until reappearing in a bumper at Punchestown in November of last year.

He took that very easily and then scorched away with a 21-runner maiden hurdle to the tune of 13 lengths at Navan in the middle of December.

I was now firmly on board and when Battleoverdoyen stepped straight into Grade One company, displaying all the right qualities, winning at Naas in early January, he had to be regarded as a live Cheltenham candidate.

The two miles and five Ballymore was the target and that seemed a wise decision, seeing as he was doing all his best work at the end of two and a half at Naas.

Elliott’s charge was taken from 9-2 to 3-1 favourite and backing him each-way seemed eminently sensible. What could possibly go wrong?

Well everything actually.

Battleoverdoyen never promised to give us any sort of return on our investment and watching him though the race made for most uncomfortable viewing as he never travelled with any fluency and was pulled up heading to the final flight.

Excuses were trotted out and we have heard them again in the wake of Galway, that he didn’t travel very well to the meeting and whatever you are having yourself.

But in my experience making excuses for beaten horses can often be the route to the poor house and the jury is out for the moment, or at least as far as this particular member is concerned.

It’s also worth noting that the horse was fitted with a tongue tie for the first time.

We know that could indicate a wind issue. For the moment let’s just not get too carried away with the hype.

I don’t spend much time watching Sky racing any more, now they have lost the Irish meetings, but last Sunday I did tune in to see the Group 1 Criterium International for juveniles from Longchamp.

A paltry four were set to go the post, but with Armory and Wichita due to represent Aidan O’Brien and Lady Penelope running for Joseph O’Brien the race was chockful of Irish interest.

Wichita, however, was withdrawn because of the heavy ground and then Lady Penelope had to be withdrawn after getting upset in the stalls.

That left the sole French challenger, Alson, to take on Armory. The latter, though, couldn’t lift a leg on the surface and Alson breezed along to win by 20 lengths.

There will surely never be a more farcical Group 1.

Alson earned, if that’s not too strong a word, a tasty €128,693 for what amounted to no more than a gentle piece or work, while Armory picked up in excess of €51,000, even if it did take him an eternity to get to the line!

Many years ago, at Leopardstown, the late and great Paddy Mullins explained there was no explaining as to why a trainer’s horses suddenly hit form.

His charges were flying at the time, they often were anyway, and he told a handful of us he was training them exactly the same way he always had. He could offer no reason as to why they were now suddenly almost unbeatable.

His words very much came to mind this week when reflecting about the cracking end to the season Jim Bolger is enjoying.

The form of Bolger’s horses was never better illustrated than by his three-year-old Vocatus at Galway on Monday.

Vocatus had previously failed to win in 14 outings, but at Galway he was backed as if defeat was out of the question, admittedly in a weak maiden.

He left the seven furlongs start behind as the 11-10 favourite and bounded clear in the straight to win by six lengths.

Oh, and one other story about Mullins. It has to do with him winning a race at Thurles towards the end of his career.

If memory serves me correctly Paddy was about 82 at the time, but the owner of the horse was further on again, at around 86.

Anyway, one of the press corps asked Paddy what was the plan for his winner? Paddy possessed a dry wit and the response was superb.

He said: “The owner wants to give the horse time, but I don’t know where it is going to come from.’’

So, no Davy Russell aboard Samcro at Down Royal yesterday, or Delta Work in the Ladbrokes Champion Chase at the track this afternoon, both owned by Gigginstown.

Given Jack Kennedy is out injured one might have thought Russell would definitely have been called on for Cheltenham Gold Cup candidate, Delta Work, which has long been his ride, but he has been largely overlooked by Gigginstown for a while.

Admittedly, Russell does get the nod for Gigginstown’s Alpha Des Obeaux in today’s feature, but that’s like giving someone who wants a glass of brandy a glass of water!

One of the best in the business then is regarded as mainly surplus to requirements.

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