Un de Sceaux taking Sublimity route to Cheltenham

Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh admit to being in dark about limit of Un De Sceaux’s capabilities

It’s seven years since Sublimity used tomorrow’s lowly €20,000 conditions race at Navan as a stepping stone to a surprise 16/1 triumph in the Champion Hurdle two months later and Un de Sceaux appears to be going down a similarly ‘left-field’ road to Cheltenham.

Unbeaten in three starts since coming to Ireland, the ex-French star is already as low as 12/1 in ante-posts for the Champion Hurdle, having beaten two opponents at 1/16 odds at Thurles before Christmas.

That came on the back of a pair of trail-blazing efforts last season which have helped the flamboyant front-runner to an official rating of 156 already.

In most yards that would be enough to make him the star-turn but at Willie Mullins's he is firmly number three in the Champion Hurdle pecking order behind Hurricane Fly and Annie Power. What both Mullins and Ruby Walsh admit to though is being in the dark about the limit of Un De Sceaux's capabilities.

Three opponents
We're unlikely to find out more in the Follow Navan On Facebook Hurdle. This time Un De Sceaux has three opponents, including a Cheltenham festival winner in Flazen Flare who is officially well over a stone 'wrong' at the weights. If the Champion Hurdle dark horse can't beat him in this scenario, then it really will be lights-out in terms of the championship. But Sublimity proved in 2007 that a lack of profile is no insurmountable obstacle. And this race has an impressive roll-of-honour. Sir Des Champs' first appearance in Ireland came in this race, while Kempes scored in 2009.

Noel Meade is on the verge of breaking the half-million mark in prizemoney for the season and could enjoy another profitable day at his local track.

Wounded Warrior is described as a "great looking horse and a fabulous walker" by Meade and proved he can run too when successful in a bumper here last month. The winning pointer will be hard to beat in the stamina-sapping maiden hurdle while Chancol could use his experience to good effect over the Listed winner on the flat, Aklan, in the opener.

Another chance
Sucker Punch failed to live up to his home reputation on his bumper debut but on the back of that experience could be worth another chance tomorrow.

She's Got No Grit has a three-from-five record over fences, bottomweight, and comes to the Foxrock Handicap Chase on the back of a winning run, while Navan definitely suits Irish Thistle who can reward Harry Rogers's decision to go the novice route on just his second start over fences.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column