Valseur Lido certainly struck an early blow for Cheltenham Gold Cup consideration with that stunning victory last Saturday in the Grade One JNwine.com Champion Chase at Down Royal.
He is, of course, one of the massive batch of Gigginstown horses removed from Willie Mullins recently and is now trained by Henry de Bromhead.
In June of this year Dermot Weld essentially completed his CV when Harzand finally gave him success in the Epsom Derby.
Weld’s remarkable story simply would not have been complete without winning arguably the best Flat race in the world.
It is the exact same story with Mullins in the National Hunt sphere. He has had a magnificent career, but, following a number of near misses, has yet to train the winner of the Gold Cup.
It really would represent the ultimate irony if Valseur Lido goes on to take win the race for De Bromhead.
Mind you, it is not as if we haven’t been down a similar road with the De Bromhead family in the past.
In 1993 De Bromhead’s father, Harry, won the American Express Gold Card Handicap Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival with a horse called Fissure Seal. He had previously been trained by Gerry Cully, having his last outing for him in September of ’92.
So, some six months later, and having an eighth run for De Bromhead Snr, he beat a big field at Cheltenham at 14-1 in the hands of Charlie Swan. Could lightning strike a second time?
It is far from a remote possibility, because there was much to admire in the Down Royal display by Valseur Lido.
He has been a good horse from the first day he came to this country from France and, as a mere seven-year-old, has enormous scope for improvement. His jumping was very accurate and he travelled through the race like a steam engine. Watching Ruby Walsh’s body language, it seemed he felt this was his, bar a fall, a long way from home.
In the end Valseur Lido hardly turned a hair to beat Silviniaco Conti by 11 lengths.
It would be wrong, however, to get too carried away with the bare form.
There is a chance Silviniaco Conti, who will be 11 in less than two months time, may be on a downward spiral. But, for now, De Bromhead is fully entitled to harbour very high hopes for his talented acquisition.
The scattering of those 60 Gigginstown horses from Mullins to other trainers has the potential to ensure a cracking National Hunt campaign.
It has greatly strengthened Gordon Elliott’s hand and De Bromhead’s and one or two others aren’t doing too badly either.
We really won’t be sure how much of a difference it is going to make until Mullins begins to move in earnest. He’s a patient man and, even though the rain came this week, there were no mob-handed entries from him for either today or tomorrow.
On what is known thus far, though, the current campaign promises to be far better than we envisaged.
Punters and bookmakers want competitive racing, and glorified laps of honour are just no good to the game.
Last weekend, for instance, was superb. We had three excellent jumping cards, Down Royal on Saturday and Cork and Naas on Sunday.
There were 21 races run in total and only three contests that produced an odds-on favourite. Indeed, one of those, Alpha Des Obeaux at Cork, was backed from odds against. If that is a portent of what is to come then there can be few complaints.
Regular readers of this column will be aware that, at one stage at least, there was no bigger fan of Alpha Des Obeaux.
We enjoyed a decent pay day with the horse at Cheltenham, recommending that he be strongly supported in the Ryanair World Hurdle without the market leader, Thistlecrack.
He duly proved no match for Thistlecrack, going down by seven lengths, but it was 22 lengths back to the third, Bobs Worth, and the last half a mile or so of the race made for rather relaxed viewing.
Mind you, Alpha Des Obeaux had cost us a bundle when disappointing at Leopardstown at Christmas, but we were back on side at Cheltenham and thankful for that.
But after Cheltenham, he buried us again when failing badly to justify warm favouritism at the Punchestown Festival in late April.
Anyway, the point I’m trying to get across is that I no longer trust Alpha Des Obeaux and cannot believe how short he is for the RSA Chase at Cheltenham next March.
He has already had three outings over fences his season and hasn’t impressed in any of them. Alpha Des Obeaux made no show first time up at Tipperary and then scrambled to win a nothing event at Thurles.
He took another nothing race at Cork last Sunday, after his only serious rival, Westerner Lady, blundered away her chance at the third.
On the back of those efforts then bookmakers have the six-year-old as their favourite for Cheltenham’s RSA chase.
He was a best priced 8-1 yesterday and you could only get 7-1 in Ireland, with Boylesports, while Ladbrokes and Paddy Power think that 6-1 is fair. They are joke prices.
I’d imagine just about every follower of racing in the country rejoiced when Seamie Heffernan landed his first Breeders’ Cup aboard Highland Reel at Santa Anita last Saturday night.
We’ve spoken here before about him playing second fiddle to many jockeys over 20 years at Ballydoyle, but he has done so with style.
Highland Reel won €1.75m and Heffernan’s percentage will surely ensure he enjoys a warm winter.
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