Barry Geraghty is far too clever and experienced to go overhype for any young horse.
Publicly at least, he has been measured in his praise for Yanworth. But since he piloted him to a facile victory over today’s course and distance on unsuitable ground he has vied with Thistlecrack for lead actor in the role of ‘best British banker of the week’ in today’s Neptune Hurdle.
Always thought to be a viable contender for one of the novice hurdles, it was the sheer effortlessness class he showed when upped in trip to demolish the very handy Shantou Village that marked him out as something special.
That win earned him a Racing Post rating of 160, and only two horses in the last 30 years have run to higher marks in taking this race, Barton and Simonsig, and they won by seven and 15 lengths respectively.
To paraphrase Jurgen Klopp — this could one go ‘boom.’
The Queen Mother Champion Chase is arguably the classiest race of the week but has been less dissected in the pre-festival previews and because everybody knows what is going to happen in advance.
Here is how it goes. Horses are saddled, enter parade ring. Ruby jumps aboard Un De Sceaux, canters to start. Tape goes up, Un De Sceaux canters back 20 lengths ahead of everything else hard held.
But think again. The race has the previous three winners in Dodging Bullets, Sire De Grugy and Sprinter Sacre lining up, each of them showing resurgent form following spells in the doldrums. This is top class stuff.
Un De Sceaux only fails to win when he doesn’t complete and most of those successes have been spectacularly easy.
But there is always a worry that with his tendency to run with the choke out, disaster could always be looming. But think again. In his chasing career he has so far jumped 79 fences and only recorded a mistake at three of them. His latest win over Sire De Grugy was cleverly foot perfect. The wild boy has become a man.
There won’t be too much agonising amongst picture editors for tomorrow’s newspaper front pages if Augusta Kate wins the bumper. Owned by the celebrity heavy ‘Masters’ syndicate which includes Alan Shearer and Ant and Dec, Lee Westwood is also involved and it could be the long anticipated day on which he at last breaks his duck in a major.
Kate has been vying for favouritism in the lead up through a combination of solid form, being trained by Willie Mullins and looks bound to shorten further when the casual late money arrives. She has won her two bumpers to date by a combined distance of 30 lengths and, although mares haven’t a great record of victory in the race, she gets a weight allowance and will be ultra-competitive.
Although Westwood has won 42 times on the professional circuit, he has always come up short on the home stretch in Majors and the sands of time could be running out for him at this stage.
If his talented young mare can win this on the cusp of what could be a brilliant career, it would be a nice up and down for him.