Un de Sceaux cruises to 53-length victory
Mullins points to Gowran’s Red Mills Hurdle as a possible festival warm-up
Ruby Walsh and Un de Sceaux made it six-from-six in his career to date with a pulverising front-running style victory by 53 lengths at Navan yesterday.
Flinging a ‘could-be-anything’ verdict at Un de Sceaux hardly scores points for precision but right now it does sum up a horse that looks possibly the most intriguing Cheltenham quandary of all with just eight weeks to go until the festival.
Since both Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh are also in the dark when it comes to estimating his chances of relieving his legendary stable-companion Hurricane Fly of the Champion Hurdle title, imprecision is hardly a capital crime, but in terms of statistics at least Un de Sceaux continues to rack up impressive black-and-white figures after another short-price stroll at Navan yesterday.
Faced with just two opponents, the French import started at 1/12 and sauntered to a 53 length success. That makes it six-from-six in his career to date with a pulverising front-running style contributing to a cumulative winning margin of 128 lengths in those half-dozen starts.
That he has yet to tackle a true Grade One horse hasn’t prevented ante-post quotes of as low as 12/1 for Cheltenham and significantly, although it was tempting to dismiss yesterday’s victory as merely a well-paid school, Mullins felt Un de Sceaux proved plenty.
One was that he settled better for Walsh than he had before, and more importantly he left Foildubh legless after that versatile rival tried to lie up with the heavy favourite down the back-straight. In fact, Foildubh, hardly a mug considering he is a 150 plus rated chaser, was left so tired that he conceded second to the 66/1 no-hoper Akatara.
With an embarrassment of Champion Hurdle riches that also includes Annie Power, Mullins pointed to Gowran Park’s Red Mills Hurdle next month as a possible festival warm-up for Un de Sceaux but conceded that a case for eventually stepping up to the highest class in the most important race of all is becoming unarguable.
A huge gap
“I don’t see another race at Cheltenham for him. He’s officially got to improve 20lb to get near Hurricane Fly which is a huge gap, and a stone to get near Champion Hurdle class, but it looks like where he is going to go. His style of running suggests good ground would suit him even more,” he said.
His style on testing going was impressive enough and Mullins added: “He destroyed Foildubh, killed him, and he’s a decent horse. He settled better than he ever has and even though he didn’t jump as well as he can, he took the stuffing out of Foildubh.”
Un de Sceaux was the highlight of a hat-trick for Walsh, which was kicked off by another winning Mullins newcomer in Aklan. The former Listed winner on the flat wasn’t entirely fluent in his jumping but earned a 25/1 Supreme Hurdle quote from RaceBets after ultimately scoring by nine lengths.
“He was bought 18 months ago but has had various problems. We’ve been waiting a while because he has a real good engine and I’d imagine he will jump better on better ground,” Mullins said.
Walsh completed his treble on Tony Martin’s Gallant Oscar, all out to hold Drive On Locky, who carried 1lb overweight, in the handicap hurdle while Mullins brought up his own three-timer in the bumper with the odds-on Milsean.
“He’s a chaser in the making, a huge horse. He’s already the same size fit as Florida Pearl used to be coming in off grass,” the champion trainer said.
She’s Got Grit lived up to her name in the Foxrock Chase, emerging best from a prolonged duel with Orpheus Valley by half a length under Adrian Heskin.