Un De Sceaux destined to remain a mystery horse

It’s the million dollar question: just how good is Un De Sceaux?

Un De Sceaux destined to remain a mystery horse

Willie Mullins’ French import is definitely the most intriguing National Hunt horse in training in Britain and Ireland right now.

We know he is unbeaten in six races and seems to be able to go just about the same pace for every furlong of a two-mile race. But otherwise we are literally in the dark and that includes, you suspect, both Mullins and Ruby Walsh, who has ridden him to his four successes in Ireland.

The handicapper, Noel O’Brien, rates Un De Sceaux on 156. But that is merely an educated guess, because Un De Sceaux has yet to run against an opponent who would allow O’Brien to be confident he has actually got a decent handle on the horse.

Assuming for a moment that O’Brien’s assessment is reasonably accurate, then it does require a leap of faith to picture the six-year-old as a live Champion Hurdle possibility.

Un De Sceaux’s rating leaves him 19lbs behind Hurricane Fly and 10lbs shy of Jezki.

But that is just theory and we are simply guessing as to whether the gap may be far less, or, rather unlikely, he is perhaps flattered by his mark.

He began life by winning two French bumpers, both over a mile and a half. The first was on good to soft ground, scoring by 20 lengths, the second, on ground described as very soft, by seven lengths.

That initial outing was the only time the word good has appeared in the ground description when he’s run and most of the evidence so far is that the softer the surface the more effective Un De Sceaux will be.

What he did at Navan last Sunday to Foildubh was nothing short of staggering. Paul Carberry, as canny a pilot as has ever sat in a saddle, made his tactics crystal clear from the start, as he asked Foildubh to stick into Un De Sceaux as best he could.

Carberry had done the same aboard Foildubh when unsettling another Mullins inmate, Rubi Ball, at Thurles in late November, turning over that hotpot by a head.

But, in trying to match strides with the powerful frontrunner, it soon became obvious that he was seeking the impossible.

Un De Sceaux broke Foildubh from about the fourth last, to such an extent that the latter was unconscious early in the straight.

It was the fourth occasion we had seen the horse destroy inferior opposition and left us yearning to see him taking on the best.

The best, in Ireland, are Hurricane Fly, Jezki, Our Conor and Annie Power. But the first three are all being aimed at the Irish Champion Hurdle, while Mullins’ Annie Power certainly won’t be heading in the same direction as Un De Sceaux, at least not before Cheltenham.

The likelihood is that Un De Sceaux will now go for the Red Mills at Gowran Park, but there is little chance we are going to learn anything new from that.

So, all logic tells us that he is destined to remain a mystery horse for some time to come. After his Navan demolition job, Ladbrokes reacted by not reacting at all and left him at 16-1 for the Champion Hurdle. Couldn’t have agreed more.

Mind you, by Tuesday, Ladbrokes were forced to react and slashed six points off his odds to 10-1.

That was a really bizarre story concerning Big Buck’s, Daryl Jacob and Paul Nicholls.

Jacob, according to Nicholls, was negative regarding the possibility of partnering Big Buck’s and so the trainer went and booked Sam Twiston-Davies.

Presumably, the conversation between Nicholls and Jacob was a private one, but when it generated negative publicity for Nicholls, in that he seemed to be snubbing Jacob, he was having none of it and went public.

You could, I suppose, argue that Nicholls’ extensive statement to the press was a bit much and didn’t half show Jacob in a poor light.

Fair enough, but it is hard to understand how Jacob failed to embrace the challenge of riding Big Buck’s, if that’s what was on offer.

I can’t really see what the downside for him was. After all here was an opportunity to ride a horse that is afforded the type of respect reserved for Kauto Star and Hurricane Fly.

So what if it went belly-up. Jacob wasn’t going to be performing open-heart surgery, he was only being asked to ride in a bloody horse race.

Those of us who felt Vautour might be a bit special were left deflated after his performance at Punchestown last Saturday.

It’s not often you can say that about a horse who had just graduated from taking his maiden to immediately proving successful in Grade 2 company.

Vautour was well touted prior to his debut in Ireland and didn’t disappoint in winning in a canter at Navan.

When his immediate victim, Lieutenant Colonel, then went and bolted in at Fairyhouse it looked as if the visually impressive Navan display had real substance as well.

But, at Punchestown, Vautour was all out to beat Western Boy by three parts of a length.

You can dress it up anyway you want, but this was not Cheltenham winning form and very much lacked the wow factor.

After all it wasn’t as if Vautour was short on experience, considering he had previously twice finished second over flights in France, at Pau and Auteuil.

Hopefully, we will see the five-year-old again prior to the festival, because we really need to.

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