Ups and downs yesterday, but what more can I say about Douvan than he was spectacular. I don’t think I’ve ridden a novice like him, and can’t wait to see him take the next step, writes Ruby Walsh

I think Shaneshill just emptied coming to the last in the stayers’ hurdle. That’s why he fell, because he was not that far from the hurdle and yet didn’t have the power to get the height of the hurdle. It was disappointing but I think he is probably a better hurdler than he is a chaser, so we know what to do with him and what to work on for next year.

We move along with two more today, headed by Vroum Vroum Mag in the Champion Hurdle. Without doubt this is her stiffest task for us, and I doubt she has faced anything as tough as this in France. Dropping back to two miles in this company is a little bit of a step into the unknown, but I don’t think the trip is an issue, and we should find out this afternoon how good she is.

Thus far it has been about potential with her, but she has been more than equal to all the tests which we have put to her.

Today she is taking on the geldings, and My Tent Or Yours sets the standard. He ran very well in the Champion Hurdle and again at Aintree, and that probably makes him the one to beat. Identity Thief disappointed in the Champion Hurdle but, like Vroum Vroum Mag, he skipped Aintree and comes here somewhat fresh.

The drop of rain which fell is no harm. I think she is in good form, she has the speed to score, and I wouldn’t swap the ride on her for either of the other two. Mind you, this is the third time we have gone to the sub’s bench for a replacement for Faugheen.

Willie also runs Sempre Medici. He ran a blinder in the International Hurdle at Cheltenham in December but, for whatever reason, didn’t perform in the Champion Hurdle. He’s better than that, but has to improve to win in this company.

My only other ride of the day is Thomas Hobson, in the Grade One Champion Novice Hurdle. He has his own auld way of jumping. It’s not easy on the eye, and I can assure it’s not beautiful on his back, but he doesn’t have much to find on previous form and should run well.

A Toi Phil didn’t produce his best at Cheltenham, but his previous form is very good. If he bounces back to top form, he will be hard to beat.

Jer’s Girl is the interesting runner in the race. She receives age and sex allowances, but this is a much stiffer task than when she ran away with the Grade One at Fairyhouse. She is very good, but it’s a big ask for a four-year-old filly taking on older geldings at this stage of her career.

Willie runs Avant Tout and Sambremont in the two-mile-five handicap chase. Avant Tout won a handicap hurdle here last year, but has crept up the weights over fences this season.

That hurdle was over three miles, as was his recent victory over fences at Limerick, but I don’t think the drop back to two-miles-five is a worry. However, he has to carry top weight and is quite light-framed so I wonder is he robust enough to cope with such a burden.

Sambremont jumped poorly by his standard when disappointing in the Kim Muir at Cheltenham, but the drop in trip should suit, and I think he’ll run a solid race.

We have two in the two-mile novice hurdle, and Bello Conti sets the standard with his rating of 142, and will take beating. Koshari will be having first start for us, and I don’t know a lot about him. He looks a straight-forward horse, and has won in France, but he’s only a four-year-old and will have to be very good to beat Bello Conti.

Some Neck runs in the bumper, and is overdue a winning turn after finishing runner-up in all three outings to date.

I would say that nine times out of ten when a horse of Willie’s doesn’t win first time out in a bumper they don’t win next time.

Blow By Blow is a recent example of one that did, but there’s a running joke in the stable that when they’re beaten on their debut they don’t win until the fourth time, so hopefully that will ring true today. Leaving the joking aside, I expect him to step forward from his run at Fairyhouse, and will be very hard to beat.


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