Cheltenham: Abbyssial could be World class at fancy odds
Vautour and Champagne James in with a big shout for the Irish contingent on Day Three
Abbyssial and Ruby Walsh after a crushing fall during last year’s JCB Triumph Hurdle. Photo: David Davies
Unlike the Ryanair, there isn’t an Irish blank on the Ladbrokes World Hurdle roll-of-honour but one winner in 20 years is hardly something to shout about either. Abbyssial could be a big-priced option to change that, however.
Getting a decent price on Willie Mullins’s five-year-old is key, however, as his credentials hardly immediately stand out. This is the horse that crashed out of last year’s Triumph Hurdle and whose return to action at Gowran a few weeks ago also saw him take a crashing fall in the Red Mills Trial won by Kitten Rock.
The frustration is that when Abbyssial gets it right he has masses of ability as evidenced by a facile Grade One victory at Punchestown last season where he had Kitten Rock well behind him in fourth.
A lacklustre effort in Auteuil was over almost 2½ miles but a first try at three could be just what Abbyssial requires in terms of a pace that doesn’t put pressure on his jumping. Since we know jumping is what it is all about, that’s a pretty substantial condition but the Mullins camp appear to quietly fancy him.
He will have to step up significantly against opposition that includes the 165-rated Saphir Du Rheu and his stablemate, the former Triumph winner Zarkandar (160), although it’s noticeable how the handicapper rates Abbyssial equal to Lieutenant Colonel who looks to have the more obvious credentials.
If Abbyssial is an outsider for Mullins then the trainer’s influence is all over the JLT with a combination of Vautour and Valseur Lido which looks a “V for Victory” combination.
Valseur Lido is the Grade One winner over fences but his trainer had expressed a preference to go for the RSA over three miles rather than this which distance-wise looks a perfect fit for Vautour.
A Christmas defeat dampened expectations about last year’s Supreme Hurdle winner but he bounced back with a Grade Two win and hopes that Vautour can eventually be a Gold Cup candidate can be confirmed with another festival success.
Foxrock will be the high-profile hope that Barry Connell and Ted Walsh pitch into day three but whatever that one’s fate, the combination also look to have a good chance in the Kim Muir with Champagne James.
David Pipe is always a major player in the handicap chase having landed three of the last six and he looks to have another leading contender in Monetaire. The ex-French horse has had just the two starts for Pipe, winning the second at Newbury in November and hasn’t been seen since. He is almost a stone higher in the ratings for that but could still have something in hand.
Hughie Morrison is a Group One-winning trainer on the flat but has an impressive Cheltenham record too with a few runners and Brother Brian’s course form could improve that record further.