You just have to stand back and admire Un De Sceaux

If Giant’s Causeway was the iron horse of flat racing then it is no exaggeration to describe Un De Sceaux as the National Hunt equivalent.

You just have to stand back and admire Un De Sceaux

If Giant’s Causeway was the iron horse of flat racing then it is no exaggeration to describe Un De Sceaux as the National Hunt equivalent.

At Punchestown on Tuesday the 11-year-old proved there is plenty fight in the old dog yet when kicking the three years younger Min out of the way to land the tenth Grade 1 of his life.

The case has been made that Min had been to both Cheltenham and Aintree and may have been feeling the effects of his travels.

But I can have no truck with such thinking and it seemed to me that Un De Sceaux simply wanted it more than his rival, which has been the horse’s attitude literally from the first day he set foot on a racecourse.

I have always taken a more than normal interest in the exploits of Un De Sceaux, because I’ve known his owner, Eddie O’Connell, from way back in the day.

Un De Sceaux can now be quite rightly described as a legend and, long after he has been retired, will not be out of place if mentioned in the same breath as the likes of Dawn Run, Danoli, Red Rum and Tiger Roll.

What he has achieved is nothing short of remarkable and the O’Connell family must occasionally pinch themselves at having come across such an extraordinary warrior.

Un De Sceaux is, arguably, the best example you will ever see regarding the system Willie Mullins has in place for sourcing potential future stars out of France.

As a four-year-old, back in 2012, he won his opening two races, both bumpers, in his native country. The first was at a place called Machecoul and the second at Saint-brieuc. Now hands up anyone who has heard of either of those racecourses?

He took both contests in a canter, typically making all the running.

Four months after the second of those successes he appeared on an Irish racecourse for the first time, February 20, 2013 to be precise, in a 22-runner maiden hurdle Partnered by Ruby Walsh, Un De Sceaux, went off at 9-10 and duly made most to score comfortably by six lengths.

He then followed up at the Punchestown festival in April, contesting what shaped as a competitive enough novice hurdle, leaving the starter behind as the 5-4 favourite.

Ridden again by Walsh, he made all the running, shooting clear from the second last to score by 13 lengths. Soon after the race was over, I enjoyed a good chat with Eddie O’Connell and he was just bubbling over with excitement with what had just unfolded and full of anticipation of what Un De Sceaux might achieve going forward.

Neither of us, nor the thousands on site that day, or watching on television, could have envisaged the superstar Un De Sceaux was destined to become.

I mean he has won 23 of his 32 races, been second on five occasions and has well in excess of €1.5m in prizemoney neatly tucked away. Un De Sceaux won his first nine races and 14 of his first 16.

He was unlucky not to land all 16. At Thurles in November of 2014, he fell at the third last, when going to win by a wide margin, and at Christmas at Leopardstown in 2015 was two lengths in front, and apparently full of running, when falling two out.

Un De Sceaxu has given the O’Connell family many great days in France, at Auteuil, at Ascot and Sandown, as well as here at home.

But, of course, you’d imagine, the most memorable have arrived at Cheltenham.

Twice he has been a winner at the festival, taking the Arkle Trophy in 2015 and the Ryanair Chase two years ago. He has also been twice second at the festival, behind Balko Des Flos in last year’s Ryanair and to the great Sprinter Sacre in the Champion Chase of 2016.

For the O’Connells, he has been a horse about which they could only have dreamd. I am reliably informed they are highly regarded and very popular within their local Glanmire-Riverstown community.

They have more than played their part in the fairytale, great winners and even better losers.

The immediate family, and considerable entourage, have just brought colour and dignity to the game.

And the story seems far from over, certainly the Un De Sceaux we saw on Tuesday gave no indication that making the pipe and slippers available to him any time soon would be a good idea!

Henry de Bromhead has enjoyed a tremendous season, given how difficult it is to compete with the twin towers - Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott.

But de Bromhead is now a major player and in the massively progressive Minella Indo has a potential Cheltenham Gold Cup contender on his hands.

The six-year-old produced an amazing display at the Cheltenham festival to land the Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle.

Essentially, he couldn’t possibly win on form and odds of 50-1 just about summed up his prospects.

Then Minella Indo ran far too freely for his own good and any normal horse would have dropped out long before the finish. But he didn’t and kept finding in the straight to win by a comfortable two lengths.

It was hard to know whether the form could be trusted, but at Punchestown on Wednesday he showed Cheltenham was no fluke with a seriously game display to beat the Willie Mullins pair, Allaho and Carefully Selected.

Minella Indo, for starters, should make some novice chaser next season.

After the Michael O’Callaghan- trained I Am Superman bolted in by five lengths, in a one-mile handicap at Naas on Monday, the handicapper had to be left scratching his head.

The horse had run creditably in all three of his outings as a juvenile, without winning, and began this campaign on a mark of 79.

He quickly showed that was far too lenient, on his seasonal debut at Leopardstown on April 3, scoring by a length and three parts.

The handicapper didn’t miss him, however, and moved the three-yearold up 10lbs to 89. Then he had to sit and suffer at Naas, as I Am Superman screamed: “Have another go at my man.’’

Well, the handicapper has obliged and I Am Superman has gone up a further 12lbs, to 101, a rise of 22lbs in total. His days in handicaps are now over, but he shapes as a fair horse and might not be found wanting in Group company!

When Ruby Walsh announced his retirement at Punchestown on Wednesday, I must confess you could have knocked me over with a feather. I did not see this coming and was as surprised and a shell-shocked as Willie Mullins.

And so, an extraordinary career has drawn to a close and what he brought to the table can surely be summed up in the words of Tina Turner: “Simply the best, better than all the rest.’

More in this section


Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox


Saturday, December 4, 2021

  • 7
  • 10
  • 26
  • 27
  • 35
  • 43
  • 12

Full Lotto draw results »