Indeed, Gigginstown supremo, Michael O’Leary, was quoted as saying Valseur Lido “didn’t stay’’ and was more likely to go for the two miles and five Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham, rather than the Gold Cup.
Those immediate sentiments were perfectly understandable, but I simply cannot believe Valseur Lido doesn’t get three miles.
There was something strange about that Lexus. To my way of thinking the final outcome made no sense at all and totally defied both the form book and logic.
Our game is littered with geniuses when a race is over, but even those after-dinner merchants would have difficulty explaining this one away.
The Lexus was won by Outlander and wherever the eight-year-old finished, you’ve have thought, he had to be behind the heavily backed favourite, Djakadam.
The pair clashed a couple of weeks earlier in the John Durkan at Punchestown, with Djakadam beating his rival a length and a quarter into second.
It was Djakadam’s first outing of the season, whereas Outlander had two runs under his belt. Djakdaam had to be fancied to extend his superiority, but instead could only manage a one-paced third, two and a half lengths behind his opponent.
Don Poli took second in the Lexus and if anyone had told me before the contest that he would be in the first three I’d have smiled and made a mental note to never listen to them again.
Don Poli has always been an exasperating sort, requiring much cajoling and persuading and repeatedly coming on and off the bridle.
He made his reappearance in the JNwine.com Champion Chase at Down Royal in early November, a race won by half the track by Valseur Lido, behaving like a demented mule, before being pulled up by Barry Geraghty. As a Grade 1 racehorse, it was now impossible to take him seriously.
Following the Lexus, Willie Mullins went on record that they should have made more use of Djakadam and I know Ruby Walsh, who rode him, is of the same opinion.
But one grows weary of making excuses for Djakadam. His overall record tells you he is essentially a failure when it really matters.
He got beaten last season at Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown and the season before that was beaten at both Cheltenham and Punchestown.
Which brings us back to the main focus of our attention, Valseur Lido. My firmly held belief is that for him to be seen at his best the ground has to be at least soft, or better still, heavy.
Look back at what he has done so far and all of his best efforts, with the exception of that JNwine success, have come with the word soft in it. The Lexus was run on a surface described as yielding and that was not his cup of tea.
He got three miles standing on his head at Down Royal and seemed to be crying out for the trip when a creditable second behind Vautour in the Ryanair at Cheltenham last March.
But the day when Valseur Lido actually shaped as a top-class prospect in the making was in last year’s Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown in February.
On heavy ground, he travelled through the race like a dream and, in my opinion, was going to win alone, until getting it wrong at the last and unseating Ruby Walsh. My hope then, especially if conditions are in his favour, is that trainer, Henry de Bromhead, and Michael O’Leary conclude that sending Valseur Lido on a recovery mission for the renewal of the Irish Gold Cup on February 12 is the correct way to proceed.
reports regarding the 2015 champion hurdler, Faugheen, have been relatively encouraging and there is now reason to believe he will be seen before Cheltenham.
His first port of call would be the Irish Champion Hurdle on January 29, with the alternative being the Red Mills at Gowran Park on February 18.
It is not a vintage period for high class hurdlers and this week some 5-2 was available about Faugheen for the Champion Hurdle on March 14, although shorter in many places and only 15-8 with Paddy Power yesterday.
Anyway, if Faugheen makes a winning return then all of those offerings will be just a distant memory, faster than you could say five grand to two!
I am bursting to see again is the Willie Mullins-trained Cilaos Emery, who made a winning debut in a bumper at the Punchestown festival in April.
On the limited evidence available so far that was an ordinary enough heat. The second, Someday, hasn’t been seen since, but the third, Blairs Cove, reappeared at Down Royal on St Stephen’s Day and was well beaten.
Cilaos Emery, however, had his second run at Navan in December, his first over flights, and created a very favourable impression.
Taking on the vastly more experienced Joey Sasa, he kicked that rival out of the way, beating him six lengths into second.
To then watch Joey Sasa subsequently winning a maiden hurdle in fine style at Leopardstown on St Stephen’s Day was, to put it mildly, most encouraging.
Another Mullins inmate to have his form boosted of late is the current Cheltenham RSA Chase market leader, Bellshill, who followed his easy win in a beginners’ chase at Gowran Park by landing a Grade 2 at Limerick over Christmas. The horse he slammed at Gowran, Balko Des Flos, bolted in at Fairyhouse last Sunday.