Alpha Des Obeaux
We have four very good prospects in this Grade 1, but I just sided with Alpha Des Obeaux. Last season’s World Hurdle runner-up wasn’t great on his first start over fences and is still learning as he gets experience under his belt, but he is obviously improving, as a lot of Mouse’s tend to do throughout the season. I haven’t ridden him on his last three starts but he has won well at Thurles and Cork and then finished a good third to Coney Island in the Drinmore over 2m4f last time, where I sided with the sixth, A Toi Phil. He clearly has to progress again to beat the winner here – not to mention a very strong field that features Willie’s pair of Briar Hill and Bellow Mome, and the likes of Martello Tower and Our Duke – but the step up to 3m will be in his favour. In fact, he has been crying out for it. If he puts in a good round of jumping then he won’t be far away, but this does look a Grade 1 with plenty of depth to it, and quite a few possible winners.
He was just one step down from the best 2m novice hurdlers last season but he was still only just touched off in a couple of Grade 1s at Aintree and Punchestown, and we think he wasn’t at his best physically at the latter track when beaten ½ length by Don’t Touch It. Things clearly didn’t go to plan for him in a very messy race at Down Royal first time out and then he had the misfortune to fall 3 out in the Fighting Fifth. It was too far out to be confident about what would have happened had he stood up, but I still had plenty of horse underneath me and I personally think he would have won, given the way the race panned out. Henry has been very happy with him since, and hopefully he can cement himself into the Champion Hurdle picture with a prominent showing here. He is rated only 151 at the moment, so he has plenty to prove, but I think this horse has the potential to compete at the highest level over two miles. This will hopefully tell us if I am right as, even with Faugheen not entered, we know what a good hurdler last year’s winner Nichols Canyon is on his day. In fact, he is rated 11lb higher than us and we meet him off levels, so that puts our task into perspective. But he jumped really well when I schooled him last week, so the fall doesn’t seem to have affected his confidence.
He has run well on all three starts since joining Gordon, winning a four-runner race over this trip at Cork last month. I sat on him for the first time in a decent novice hurdle at Fairyhouse last time and he showed improved form to finish third there. The winner is a good horse, and the second came out and won well at Thurles, too. Things didn’t go entirely to plan there either, and he is obviously a lightly-raced horse with improvement with him as he gains experience, and I think a mark of 122 is very fair. He had Grade 1 entries too, so hopefully,he is capable of going close to winning here even if it does look a competitive race.
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