UN DE SCEAUX AND ANNIE MUST RUN IN CHAMPION !!!
Un De Sceaux , Melodic Rendevouz and My Tent Or Yours came through their respective trials for the Champion Hurdle in contrasting styles but all three were very impressive. Some might have been unhappy with the Wincanton race but they would be wrong.
Melodic Rendevouz needs an end to end gallop to be seen at his best and today the opposite happened.They crawled for the first one mile and five furlongs and it ended up a sprint for the final three. One need only look at the proximity of the winner’s stablemate ,Notarfbad, still cruising coming round the home bend and moreover jumping the second last almost on terms. Melodic Rendevouz dropped to fourth as the pace quickened and was definitely pushed along for a few strides and had four lengths to make up on the quickening joint favourite Zarkandar. However he made them up smartly to be on the leader’s quarters at the last before bulldozing past him as the pair brushed near the stand side rail as they flew towards the line. Melocic won rather cheekily by half a length with plenty in hand. This was a good trial as late as it was and I thought unnecessary beforehand as the winner might be best fresh and therefore might have hurt his Champion Hurdle chance. Zarkandar is no mug. His record around tight tracks like today is exemplary , six wins from six completed starts and is a serious handfull in those circumstances. The fact that he was gifted a four length start by Melodic but was picked up speaks volumes for the Champion aspirant.I have no reason to change what I said in my preview of the big one earlier this week, Melodic Rendevouz will be a player on soft or heavy ground. His big price is ridiculous. He is one of seven that can win it even though I think he might just come up short in the best renewal for some time. Check the earlier blog.
Un De Sceaux romped again and as stated in my Champion preview he is a high class animal. Ruby didn’t really need to ask him to quicken after the last as he sprinted and took a while to pull up on the heavy ground, it wasted valuable energy, energy he will need for the big day. That aside, everything went as it should, the quicker he went the better he jumped. It is very easy to imagine him free wheeling down the hill at Cheltenham with a half decent lead and he will not be stopping coming up the other side either. I noted after the race that the yard were wondering if it might be a year too soon, I disagree. We all know how hard this horse is on himself and sure there is a worry in the travelling over and the settling in and the hurly burly of the entire experience but it will not be a career threatening exercise if it goes wrong as has been suggested. They did have the option earlier on in the season to bring him over but did not do so [ they did enter him once but that meeting at Sandown never had a chance of going ahead because of waterlogging ].The bigger worry for me is the proximity of yesterday’s race to the Champion as I think he is best fresh also.
I think Willie is playing ducks and drakes as regards Un De Sceaux and indeed Annie Power’s participation in the big one. I totally understand he has to that especially three weeks out from the big day and I have always acknowledged my admiration for his remarkable achievements but I hope he gets it right.
It is normal for any Grade One to be run at a proper pace no matter how many runners, however the defection of Un De Sceaux ,in particular, would be a serious blow to the stables own Annie Power and Hurricane Fly. Willie does not get too much wrong but if he were to withdraw both Un De Sceaux and Annie Power then it could prove a very costly blunder indeed. Willie will want to win every race he can at the Festival, that is an obvious fact, but then he should surely give himself the best shot of doing so by running both Un De Sceaux and Annie. In my opinion Hurricane Fly is really up against it this year and I do not see him winning it, if even placing so therein should lie Willie’s answer, not because I or any other person says it but because if the Hurricane fails then he has missed the boat and a chance of landing the race. Willie might have left Thousand Stars in simply for pace making duties and could be hoping that Jezki will help out in that regard but that is gambling and in reality doesn’t make that much sense. Thousand Stars might not have it anymore, even to make it and only JP and Frank know what Jezki is going to do. There are just too many high class runners in the Champion this year and if ever there was a time to be mob handed to give yourself the best chance then surely this is it.
To my mind it is a sort of a no brainer. Un De Sceaux is fit and well and is the perfect age at six. He is likely to be handed the pretty soft lead that he craves. On the numbers he has an equal chance as Hurricane Fly but slightly behind Annie Power. Furthermore, the pace that he will set will suit Annie Power and Hurricane Fly perfectly for them to deliver their challenges. Without Un De Sceaux the race is hurt as are the chances of the other two. Annie Power is also six and about to embark on a chasing career next season so why not give her to chance to emulate the great Dawn Run. As I say, it is an easy enough decision despite all the uncertainty that is prevailing at the moment.
My Tent Or Yours was also very impressive in his jumpers bumper trial and he just loved the polytrack which of course mimics the good ground that he loves. He pulled ferociously hard and flew the finish to run a big number which again there was hardly any need to do. He did confirm what I said here before, soft ground will be a problem for him in the Champion but on good he will be right there in a vintage year.