PAT KEANE: Champion Hurdle scene just gets more and more puzzling

YOU’D imagine the December Festival Hurdle at Leopardstown at Christmas is going to have a major bearing on the way the market will shape up for the Champion Hurdle heading into the New Year.

Certainly, we are in real need of some help, because attempting to unravel the puzzle right now is well nigh impossible.

Celestial Halo didn’t half blot his copybook at Cheltenham last Saturday and, instead of being promoted to favouritism, now finds himself cold-shouldered right out to 10-1.

That’s perfectly understandable, on the basis that failing to cope with Khyber Kim, rated 15lbs inferior to him, and only getting 4lbs, was simply unforgivable.

Celestial Halo has a long road to travel before one could begin to take him seriously again and, you know, last season’s Champion Hurdle is becoming a worse contest by the minute.

Punjabi beat Celestial Halo and Binocular a matter of inches, with Crack Away Jack a close enough fourth.

Punjabi couldn’t beat Solwhit at the subsequent Punchestown Festival, Celestial Halo’s limitations were exposed on Saturday, while Binocular disgraced himself at Newcastle and Crack Away Jack was recently beaten over fences.

After Zaynar had destroyed Karabak at Ascot, on his reappearance, he very much became a prime Champion Hurdle fancy in this quarter.

But watching him justifying odds of 1-5, by six lengths, in the Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham on Saturday did nothing to inspire confidence.

To my eyes there was no zip, no style at all about Zaynar and it really was an insipid performance.

Then there’s Hurricane Fly, who remains at the top of the market, with Binocular and Zaynar, despite the fact he has so much to prove.

He is currently under the weather, may not even make it to Leopardstown at Christmas, and seems to have plenty to find anyway on all known form.


WILLIE MULLINS was spoilt for choice when it came to deciding what to run in Sunday’s Grade 1 Barry and Sandra Kelly Memorial Novice Hurdle at Navan.

When he nodded in favour of just one candidate, Rhyl Accord, it looked game set and match in favour of Mullins.

It reminded you a bit of Aidan O’Brien in those Group 1’s. When he runs just a single candidate it’s often a case of selling out, while more than one sometime signals the contest should be given a wide berth.

Rhyl Accord was rumoured to be working like a steam engine at home and that nothing could live with him.

At Navan, however, he never really went a yard and was trounced to the tune of 15 lengths by the impressive Shinrock Paddy.

In the meantime, Quel Esprit, who in hindsight should have been the Mullins candidate at Navan, was shuffled off to Cork for a Grade 3.

In contrast to Rhyl Accord, he produced an immaculate display of fast and accurate jumping and seems to be a horse with a massive future.

Alright there was no Shinrock Paddy in the Cork contest, but it would be fascinating to see the pair cross swords.

The lesson to be learned is that all the catching of pigeons at home can never come close to what a horse achieves on the racecourse in the white heat of battle.


YOU would have to love that performance by Alaivan at Gowran Park last Friday, when he made an impressive debut over flights.

He is not your typical recruit to jumping, no he’s a proper horse with more than the possibility of taking very high order indeed.

Alaivan seemed to have a real appetite for jumping and hardly put a foot wrong. You would have to say he is probably the best juvenile in the country right now - and by the proverbial mile.


THE female presenter on RTE radio, some time after 6pm on Friday night last, treated us to the results from Gowran Park that afternoon.

Without turning a hair she cheerily informed us that Knight Realm had won the final race at 7-3, although no such price has ever existed in the history of racing. It’s becoming funnier by the minute!


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