THE Christmas racing threw up more questions than answers for the Gold Cup.
Who would have thought after last March that Galvin would be single figure odds and Minella Indo at 10s?
The de Bromhead horses seem to be running at around a B-level while Willie Mullins has stepped up to the usual A grade.
And Gordon Elliott is perhaps the most eager to make up for lost time, even if it did not look last March as though there was a budding Gold Cup winner in the yard.
It’s very rare in these modern times that a horse comes up through the handicap ranks to win a Gold Cup. Most winners have already performed well in a Grade 1 at the Festival, Synchronised being the exception as his first Grade 1 win was also in the Leopardstown Christmas feature before he won in 2012.
Some riders were criticised for their efforts in the King George but the main point to remember is that the King George was on much slower ground than the previous year and the Savills was run on much faster.
Most comments had the benefit of hindsight. Yes, sectional times show the first mile was too fast and while Danny Mullins took the praise, he had very few decisions to make on an outsider. Frost had to commit to maximise her horse’s jumping – Blackmore on a better stayer needed to press him after the belief that Frodon got an easy lead last year. Yes, in hindsight, that first half mile was too fast on that going. But do you ride to suit the race or suit the horse?
Blackmore came in for a little criticism from TV pundits again for the ride on A Plus Tard. I guess if you pass a rival to lead and it comes back to head you and win, you can question - yet A Plus Tard was positioned well back in last year’s Gold Cup and came through to chase Minella Indo all the way to the line.
And stop the Savills Chase before the last, after closing the door on Galvin on the bend, and you’d be hard pressed to see anything wrong. A Plus Tard ran to the line in Haydock. Of course over three and a quarter miles, the going will make a huge difference.
That could be key come Cheltenham, though Galvin has no stamina doubts, A Plus Tard does have a doubt on last year while Minella Indo seems to have valid excuses for Kempton, his Cheltenham record is good and who’d have thought he’d be available at 10/1.
ANTE-POST betting three months out from a big race is not something I’d partake in too often. (A Christmas evening small swing at the 33s for Ahoy Senor looked unwise by the end of the following day.)
Anyone taking short odds a few months ago for Kilcruit for any Festival race might be a bit uneasy now too.
You can easily make a decent profit by staying clued in, waiting to see the horse gets there, the trainer is in form and the going is favourable.
But I couldn’t help thinking that one of the eyecatchers missed by many over Christmas and one who is worth a small investment at his current odds was Quilixios for the Champion Hurdle.
Henry de Bromhead’s charge is a Triumph Hurdle winner, he jumps and travels well. His first run at Naas when well behind Teahupoo looked too bad to be true and he was reported to be hanging. On Wednesday he was asked to go too early and appeared to get stuck in the boggy going in Limerick when taking on that rival again.
Come spring ground, at 33s in places, he has better place claims than many of those shorter in the market in what looks far from a vintage Champion Hurdle.