It’s not easy watching the racing from the sidelines – it’s the boredom that kills you – but it was great to see Death Duty continue his progression with his first Grade 1 win at Naas on Sunday.
It is hard to know for sure whether he would have beaten last-flight faller Augusta Kate but I personally think he would have.
They didn’t look to go too much of a gallop and ideally it may have been an idea to make more use of him over the 2m4f trip, as he stays so well. We saw that after the last when he put so much daylight between him and Willie’s Turcagua to win by 9 lengths.
I see that he is now a short-priced favourite for the Albert Bartlett and that isn’t a great surprise as he is such a good prospect and he will stay the 3m trip well, but there is still a long way to go before we get to Cheltenham and doubtless there are still some good horses still to show their hand.
I see that Empire Of Dirt may be going for the Irish Gold Cup next. I am not sure why he sidestepped the Lexus but he gave me a great feel when travelling and jumping brilliantly to win the Troytown and he fully deserves a step up in class.
That form looks pretty strong with the fourth Noble Endeavour going on to win the Paddy Power at Leopardstown, and the handicapper has upped him 12lb to a mark of 160.
He would obviously have to be considered a Gold Cup contender if he won the Irish Gold Cup, but I do also think he is a proper Grand National horse.
But there are also plenty of hurdlers to look forward to when I return from injury, and none more so than Petit Mouchoir.
You had to be very impressed with him when he won the Ryanair Hurdle over Christmas. We went a proper gallop and he jumped well enough considering he had fallen at Newcastle the time before.
He led them a merry dance and the way he quickened off the bend to put the race to bed was the sign of a good horse. Okay, Nichols Canyon may not have been at his best but we won the race easily and I also had an awful job trying to pull him up as well, so strongly was he going at the line.
You have to respect Faugheen and Annie Power when they return but, along with Brain Power, Petit Mouchoir looks the coming horse in the 2m hurdling division.
We could see him next in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown on January 29th and we also have Apples Jade in that.
She has had a little break since beating Vroum Vroum Mag over 2m4f in the Hatton’s Grace last month and she has a couple of options, including a 2m4f race at Gowran Park. I imagine the Mares Hurdle at Cheltenham would be her target.
We have had a couple of novice chasers that have to bounce back from disappointments last time. I had to pull up Identity Thief after he made a bad mistake at Leopardstown last month – I thought he would give Min plenty to think about that day – just to be on the safe side.
He returned lame but it was nothing too serious, and maybe the Irish Arkle , or possibly a smaller race to give him experience and build up his confidence, is the next race for him.
Alpha Des Obeaux bled out of both nostrils, which is not ideal, after I had to pull him up at Leopardstown. He was giving me a great ride there but he suddenly went from hard on the bridle to next to nothing as if he had been shot.
I would imagine he would go straight to Cheltenham now and if Mouse can get him there in top shape then he is not a horse that I would be in a rush to underestimate.
We have a couple of smart prospects in Cork juvenile winner Dinaria Des Obeaux and dual bumper winner Samcro but we also have a certain Don Cossack to come back.
I haven’t seen him for the last fortnight but he had earlier looked great and been doing plenty of work at home. I think he will have a low-key return before we hopefully try and retain his Gold Cup crown in March.
We also have plenty of other possibles for that race now. Outlander, Don Poli and my mount Valseur Lido finished first, second and fourth in the Lexus and they make up a pretty strong team for Gigginstown in the coming months, whatever their big spring targets end up being.
I thought they went a good gallop in the Lexus, and my lad (Valseur Lido) didn’t seem to stay, but it was great to see Outlander win and Don Poli return to form.
Again, I imagine the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown on February 12th will tell us a lot more about our Cheltenham plans, though.
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