Our expert racing columnist Ruby Walsh picks his 10 horses to watch for 2016.
Un De Sceaux (7yo gelding, Denham Red — Hotesse De Sceaux) Trainer: Willie Mullins
His form from last year was outstanding, and it was just a pity he had to miss the Tingle Creek at Sandown.
Having watched that race and with reigning champion chaser Dodging Bullets yet to return, I think Un De Sceaux is the horse to beat in the two-mile division this season.
His fall at Leopardstown should prove just a blip.
Bellshill (5yo gelding, King’s Theatre — Fairy Native) Trainer: Willie Mullins
His form is rock-solid, and he seems to have improved a good bit since he was a bumper horse.
In that sphere he seemed to be a galloper, but this year, as a hurdler, he has shown a tremendous turn of foot.
He was a very impressive winner of a Grade Two Novice Hurdle at Navan, and reappears tomorrow, at Naas.
I think he’ll be to the forefront in the betting for whichever novice hurdle he turns up in at the Cheltenham Festival.
Douvan (5yo gelding, Walk In The Park — Star Face) Trainer: Willie Mullins
He was a mighty winner of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, and I was very impressed with him on his chasing debut at Navan, and again at Leopardstown, where he beat Sizing John.
His jumping is slick, he has unbelievable gears, and I think he could be a great ride in the Arkle. I’m really looking forward to him in the spring.
Vroum Vroum Mag (6yo gelding, Voix Du Nord — Naiade Mag) Trainer: Willie Mullins
She made her seasonal debut over hurdles at Clonmel recently and won every bit as easily as she was entitled to.
Where she’ll go next I don’t know, but she is a very, very talented mare. We don’t know how good she is, but that victory over hurdles has opened up unlimited avenues for her, and the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival is one of those options.
Petit Mouchoir (4yo gelding, Al Namix — Arnette) Trainer: Willie Mullins
He won the Land Rover Bumper for Gordon Elliott, and made a successful debut for Willie Mullins in a maiden hurdle at Thurles.
He seems to have settled down an awful lot at home, and is one which has slipped under many people’s radar.
His third-place finish behind Long Dog at Leopardstown was another step in the right direction. He’s a horse with a tremendous amount of ability.
Au Quart De Tour (5yo gelding, Robin Des Champs — Qualite Controlee) Trainer: Willie Mullins
He was a good winner of a bumper last year at Fairyhouse before disappointing in Cheltenham and Punchestown.
But, for whatever reason, most of our bumper horses disappointed at Cheltenham last year.
He was working really well prior to his first start over hurdles, and was on his way to victory until falling at the last.
He seemed fine afterwards and, if none the worse, he could turn into a live Albert Bartlett Hurdle contender.
Tombstone (5yo gelding, Robin Des Champs — Connaught Hall) Trainer: Gordon Elliott
I was unbelievably impressed with him when he beat one of our horses, Pylonthepressure, in a maiden hurdle at Fairyhouse.
He quickened up like a really, really smart individual, and when you think that he won a bumper over two miles and three furlongs stamina is no issue for him.
He showed a tremendous amount of boot at Fairyhouse, but didn’t enjoy the clearest of runs when behind Long Dog at Leopardstown.
He’s a fine prospect.
More Of That (7yo gelding, Beneficial — Guigone) Trainer: Jonjo O’Neill
Connections have talked about entering him in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and for me he is the outstanding three-mile novice chaser.
I know, in Willie Mullins’ yard, we have Pont Alexandre, Black Hercules and Outlander, and Gordon Elliott has No More Heroes, but More Of That is a former World Hurdle winner, sets the standard on what he has achieved so far over fences, and is the one we’ll all have to beat.
Max Dynamite (5yo gelding, Great Journey — Mascara) Trainer: Willie Mullins
I know it’s from left-field somewhat, but I think he was very unlucky in the Melbourne Cup, and I’m going to throw a mad treble out there: Max Dynamite to win the Ascot Gold Cup, followed by the Galway Hurdle, and then getting his revenge in the Melbourne Cup.
I really do believe he could improve again this year.
Let’s Dance (3yo filly, Poliglote — Barake Du Berlais) Trainer: Willie Mullins
She made her debut at Leopardstown and was unlucky to run into Ivanovich Gorbatov, who could be the best juvenile hurdler in this country.
Nevertheless, it was a really smart effort, and the front two were a nice bit clear of the remainder. She should come on for that run, and there are plenty of good races to be won with her.
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