Past Winners » Oriental Fox


Wicklow Brave will be difficult to beat here. He is a talented individual, a 153-rated hurdler. To put that mark into context, when Willie Mullins won this race with Simenon in 2012, he was rated 147 over hurdles, when he won it with Pique Sous last year, he was rated 137 over hurdles.

As well as that, Wicklow Brave looked good in his two runs on the flat, winning easily at Gowran and at Killarney, the latter from Cardinal Palace, who went and easily won a maiden hurdle at Aintree two weeks ago.

He is short though, so you are entitled to look for flaws. And they do exist. For starters, the distance is an unknown. Two miles five and a half furlongs is further than flat horses are asked to go ever outside of this race. Wicklow Brave is a pure two-mile hurdler, he is all pace, and he hasn’t yet been beyond two miles on the flat. Also, he is a quirky character, as we saw at Newbury and at Sandown earlier this year.

As well as that, Oriental Fox is an interesting horse against him, and he is over-priced in my book at 8/1. We had Mark Johnston’s horse on side when he was beaten a short head by Tominator in the Northumberland Plate two years ago, and he progressed from there that season, finishing third in the Shergar Cup Stayers at Ascot and then winning the Cesarewitch Trial at Newmarket over two and a quarter miles.

He only ran four times in total last year, but he ran a cracker in the Ascot Gold Cup to finish fifth, just five lengths behind the winner Leading Light.

He has been off the track since he was beaten in the Nothumberland Plate last year, but he can go well fresh – he finished third in the Sagaro Stakes on his debut last season – and it is probable that Johnston has had this race in mind for him for a while.

He is the second highest-rated horse in the race, his stamina is more or less proven, and, crucially, he goes well at Ascot. His record at the track reads 335, the five recorded in that Gold Cup. He is worth backing at 8/1 and, with most of the bookmakers betting ¼ the odds a place, and with so many potential non-stayers in the race, it makes sense to back him each-way.