Don Cossack a long way short of being the great white hope

Navan last Sunday was most educational, with the performances of Don Cossack and Boston Bob particularly significant.

When Don Cossack strolled to victory in a maiden hurdle at Navan a few weeks earlier, we wrote here that his jumping technique left at least a little to be desired.

Well, on what we saw of him last Sunday, he seems to have little or no technique at all.

I mean, given how impressive he had been when winning three bumpers, this really was an abysmal effort.

Don Cossack simply looked a slow horse, lacking in class and a long way short of the great white hope many felt he might be.

As drunk as a lord when taking a terrible tumble after the final flight — at the time he was clearly struggling to even hold onto second place from Busty Brown.

In the meantime, up front Pont Alexandre was running clear, making you wonder one more time just how Willie Mullins does it.

Mullins’ team right now is so far in advance of any other trainer that it certainly has more than a shade of Ballydoyle on the flat about it.

The Carlow trainer seems to have an almost uncanny ability to source this type of horse.

It helps, of course, that he has some massive owners behind him and the word is that he gave telephone numbers for a horse whose only previous outing saw him win a hurdle race in his native France by five lengths.

Mind you it mightn’t pay to get too carried away with Pont Alexander, - at least when it comes to Cheltenham.

He appeared to be seriously at home in the mud at Navan and you’d wonder if they are the conditions he will always need to be seen to best effect.

Boston Bob was nowhere near as disappointing as Don Cossack, but his narrow success over You Must Know Me in a beginners chase offered more questions than answers.

It is not a pleasant memory recalling what he cost us when failing to get to grips with Brindisi Breeze in the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham in March but most believed, including those closest to the horse, that he was not at his best that day. But you now begin to wonder.

Prior to Cheltenham, he beat Lyreen Legend at Leopardstown and Mount Benbulben at Navan. Time has revealed that neither performance was as good as we thought at the time.

On Sunday, Boston Bob went off at 1-5, with You Must Know Me at 4-1, although available as high as 9-1 on Betfair.

There is one absolute certainty if these two ever meet again, and it is that the gap in the betting between them will be infinitely tighter.

You Must Know Me is a serious talent. He went to Navan as the winner of a point-to-point and a maiden hurdle, but failed to deliver in two bumpers.

Essentially, promising and all as he had looked, the six-year-old’s profile fell a long way short of Boston Bob’s.

But fences are a great leveller and, after making most of the running, it was hugely encouraging the way he came back at Boston Bob on the run in.

When he won his maiden hurdle at Tipperary it was over three miles and you could argue two and a half, even around Navan, was too short for him.

Henry de Bromhead’s charge is especially exciting and will he prove to be a better horse than Boston Bob as we go along?

Union Dues was another extraordinary purchase by Mullins and this time for relative buttons.

The rising-five-year-old was originally trained by Mullins’ brother, Tony, and went off a well-backed favourite on his debut at Killarney in July.

He duly justified the confidence, beating Theos Well and Sizing Jo’burg by four and a half lengths and a neck.

Theos Well, a 25-1 shot, hasn’t run in the meantime, while Sizing Jo’burg subsequently won a modest maiden hurdle at Downpatrick. The overall form of the race is just moderate.

Union Dues was then offered for sale at Doncaster and Willie went after the horse and bought him for just £41,000.

Cue Navan last Sunday and his first outing for Willie. On what we knew it was hard enough to see him scoring, because a Killarney winner in the height of the summer is literally impossible to fancy in the depths of winter.

But with Willie all things are possible. Union Dues produced a right turn of foot in the closing stages to run away from Ted Walsh’s well-regarded Champagne James.

Oh and Union Dues’ new owner is Allan McLuckie. He isn’t half well named.

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