Here’s hoping top novices clash sooner rather than later

Wouldn’t you give just about anything to watch Samcro and Next Destination go head-to-head, sooner rather than later?
Here’s hoping top novices clash sooner rather than later

We definitely won’t see it happen over the Christmas period, simply because there is no race that had the potential to attract both.

Indeed, they didn’t even get an entry over the four days at Leopardstown.

But the Lawlor’s Hotel Novice Hurdle at Naas on Sunday, January 7 would be just perfect.

This is a two and a half-mile Grade 1, the ideal trip for them, and shapes as the ideal preparation for the Cheltenham festival.

Gordon Elliott (Samcro) or Willie Mullins (Next Destination) aren’t exactly shrinking violets and neither has any history of shirking a challenge.

Right now, all we know about their respective horses is they are chockful of potential, but can only guess as to how good they really are. Taking each other on at Naas would tell us just about everything we’d love to know.

My admiration for Samcro is an open book at this stage, but I must admit to warming rapidly to Next Destination as well.

As a bumper horse, I certainly hadn’t pencilled Next Destination in as any great star of the future.

Yes, I know he was fourth to ill-fated Fayonagh at Cheltenham, but all that amounted to was a decent enough effort.

When Mullins’ charge came home and got run over by the Neil Mulholland-trained Dead Right - not seen since - at Punchestown, to the tune of four and a half lengths, then that seemed to confirm there was no reason to be getting excited about him.

But given a set of obstacles to jump, he did win his only point-to-point, have just transformed the rising six-year-old.

He didn’t seem that strongly fancied on his debut over flights at Naas last month, in a maiden, and was allowed to go off at 4-1.

Next Destination, however, belied the apparent lack of confidence by scoring going away by 13 lengths.

No winner has since emerged from that contest, although the runner-up, Someday, was fairly tanking along when falling at the third last in the maiden won by 66-1 shot, Discorama, at Fairyhouse earlier this month.

At Navan last Sunday Next Destination reappeared in a Grade 2 and, though going off a marginal odds-on favourite to cope with only four rivals, was rather uneasy in the market.

I had no wager in the race, it was impossible to get a handle on his form and, I’d imagine, many other punters swerved him as well. Indeed, Next Destination was available at better than evens on the exchanges.

He seemed to be momentarily in trouble when making a minor error at the third last, but then, without being asked any sort of serious question by David Mullins, picked up in style to score with a huge amount in hand.

The bare performance leaves him a bit to find with Samcro.

When Samcro was last seen, winning a Grade 2 at the end of last month at Navan, he beat Jetz 12 lengths into second and had Half The Odds sixteen and a half lengths behind in fourth.

Jetz was third behind Next Destination last Sunday, beaten seven and a quarter-lengths, with Half The Odds (fourth) beaten nine and a half lengths.

As I’ve said here before wherever Samcro turns up I’ll be with the horse-until beaten. But to see him cross swords with Next Destination, prior to Cheltenham, would be some treat and so informative. Hopefully, it might happen at Naas.

NIGEL Twiston-Davies did some moaning after his The New One failed by a length and a quarter to concede My Tent Or Yours 6lbs in a Grade 2 at Cheltenham last Saturday.

Reportedly seething, he said: “That’s typical of British racing. Why is a race like that not a Grade 1? It’s pathetic. It’s a travesty, why are there penalties in a race like that.’’

Nige, as your son Sam, surprisingly, seems to refer to you, it is because it was a Grade 2 and this is the way those races are universally framed.

My Tent Or Yours has been a great old warrior for the admirable Nicky Henderson, even if he is a cry-baby, but this was his first success over jumps for four years. In such circumstances, of course, a horse should be allowed some modest help.

And nor is there any case for this particular contest being a Grade 1. Faugheen and Buveur D’Air are the benchmark and both My Tent Or Yours and The New One fall well short of what’s required to challenge that pair.

A creditable third at Cheltenham was Willie Mullins’ Melon and he has a long way to go to be regarded as a genuine Grade 1 horse. Twiston-Davies - what a whinger.

IN all my years at this game, I have never seen a result to match it. The success of 200-1 shot Killahara Castle, in that Listed Hurdle for mares at Thurles last Sunday, was truly astonishing.

She was 999-1 on the exchanges, the maximum price allowed.

There were only six runners and two of them, Killahara Castle and Dawn In The Park, at least in theory, couldn’t win if they started the day before.

Dawn In The Park finished 31 lengths fifth of five finishers and that was just about as good as could have been anticipated.

But while she was gasping for breath, up ahead was Killahara Castle merrily, inexplicably, slamming the form horses, True Self and Dawn Shadow.

Logic dictated that wherever Dawn In The Park was then Killahara Castle had to be behind her. After all Dawn In The Park was meeting Killahara Castle on 22lbs better terms than she would in a handicap.

Before Thurles, Killahara Castle had failed to score in 20 attempts over jumps and her previous race saw her take third in a low-grade handicap - you can’t go lower - at Thurles on November 30. Beaten just over six lengths, the handicapper wasn’t moved to take action and left Killahara Castle on a paltry mark of 87.

He had to take action after Thurles on Sunday, obviously, and this week moved her up the scale by 16lbs to what would have been regarded as an unthinkable 103.

But 103 is still a bad horse’s rating, so whither Killahara Castle now?

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