It is the question I have been bombarded with for months now: Hurricane Fly or Faugheen in the Champion Hurdle?
Ruby’s Best Bets
Nap: Tennis Cap 2.25, Naas Sunday
Double: Prince De Beauchene 5.00, Gowran Park Yorkhill 5.30 Gowran Park
The build-up to Cheltenham is so long now that is seems to almost start as soon as the winner passes the post in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. From that point on, every race is analysed in terms of Cheltenham and a myriad of horses are labelled Cheltenham horses. Many of them don’t even get there.
From the time Hurricane Fly confirmed his well-being by winning the Morgiana Hurdle though, it became likely that I would have a decision to make. Faugheen has done everything that has been asked of him in the meantime and Hurricane Fly has been Hurricane Fly.
It is a very difficult decision to make for a whole lot of factors but, like I have said before, sentiment will not come into it. I made that mistake in 2008 when I was forced into an early decision and went with the heart and Kauto Star. I knew before the Gold Cup that I was on the wrong one and Denman flew home. At least I got it right the following year when Kauto did the business again.
I have been afforded the luxury of delaying my decision as long as possible this time and, as I still have another day, I am going to take it. There’s not much point in nailing my colours to one mast or the other until they get off the boat. I need to be 100% about it.
They did their last piece of work on Thursday morning and did a canter yesterday morning. They will travel this morning. High winds are forecast so if one of them takes a rough crossing better than the other, there’s not much point being on the wrong one then.
For the sake of 24 hours, I might as well wait until the phone call comes from Prestbury Park that both horses travelled well or one travelled better than the other. Hopefully they’ll both travel well, as will all the rest of them.
The deadline will be tomorrow and I can’t wait any longer. Willie will be declaring the horses and I will be declared on one or the other. Then the phone will start hopping… and I’ll go missing!
I would definitely be leaning towards Djakadam in the Gold Cup on form and profile but, again, I will be waiting to see what happens with the ground and to make sure they are all there in one piece.
I am taking tomorrow off but will be in Sandown today. The Imperial Cup is a £70,000 handicap hurdle and Wicklow Brave (3.10) got no run in Newbury. He missed the start and every horse that fell in the race seemed to fall in front of me. So I’m willing to give him another go.
The Pipes have an unbelievable record in this race and while it is hugely competitive, you’d be keeping a close eye on their two. With luck in running, we shouldn’t be far away.
I ride Babylone Des Motte (3.45) for the Riccis in the Listed mares’ bumper. She won an AQPS flat race in France. It is deemed a national hunt race in the UK and a flat race in Ireland so she can’t run in a bumper here.
We obviously want to maintain her novice status over hurdles at this stage so this is a good opportunity. She is giving the right signals at home. She’s not massive and Whistle Dixie will be hard to beat but we’re happy with her.
Willie has a few runners over the weekend starting with three in Gowran Park today. Upazo (4.25) fell at the second last on his last start when very tired. He will have improved hugely for the run and should atone.
Prince De Beauchene (5.00) is head and shoulders above the hunter chasers and while I haven’t sat on Yorkhill (5.30), I know Patrick likes him so he could end the day with a double.
At Naas tomorrow, Tennis Cap (2.25) can overcome a 684-day absence in the beginners’ chase. It doesn’t look a strong race, he’s in good form and he’s head and shoulders ahead of these on hurdling form. He has a lot of schooling down – if anything he goes a bit high – but he should win.
Bryan Cooper prefers Identity Thief to Net D’Ecosse (2.55). We were disappointed with him on his first start as he came with a huge reputation. Maybe he won’t become a horse until next year. He’s working a bit better at home but he might need a complete break and a summer’s grass to come back to his best.
Willie has Rolly Baby (4.00) and Argentino in the handicap hurdle. Rolly Baby ran a lot better in Clonmel than he did in Punchestown. I think Argentino has a good mark. No rain would be a good help and he’s well capable of winning.
Ruby’s Comment: Silly season thankfully now over
The silly season is thankfully now over. The Cheltenham previews and the promotional work have been almost all done. I’ll fly back into Dublin tonight to do the Saturday Night Show. I’ll be in Willie’s tomorrow to ride the last piece of work with the Triumph Hurdle and Gold Cup horses, and then go to Cheltenham Sunday evening.
It will be great to get going, but Monday is actually a good day in Cheltenham. None of the dreams have been dashed. Reality from Tuesday on often isn’t as good.
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