Past Winners » Sir Des Champs


Message of 6th February:

Sir Des Champs is not a massive price for the Hennessy, but I think that he is the most likely winner of the race by a fair way, and he is worth backing now even at 5/4 …

I think that he will beat Flemenstar. Okay, so Flemenstar has beaten him on the two occasions on which they have met, but there were excuses for Sir Des Champs on both occasions. Their first meeting was in the John Durkan Chase, over two and a half miles, probably Flemenstar’s optimum trip, when Sir Des Champs was making his seasonal debut with Peter Casey’s horse having had a run.

Their second meeting was in the Lexus Chase last time, when Flemenstar finished third and Sir Des Champs finished fourth. But there was only a short head between them that day. Also, Sir Des Champs had made two fairly significant errors on the way around, which isn’t like him, and he got into a little barging match with Tidal Bay as they rounded the home turn. But for those two factors, he could even have won the race.

On top of that, you get the impression that Willie Mullins has been bringing Sir Des Champs along gradually this term, with the objective of having him hit his peak on Cheltenham Gold Cup day, so it is reasonable to expect that he will improve for his run in the Lexus. Also, the ground may be better on Saturday than it was for the Lexus – it can’t be much worse – and that will favour Sir Des Champs and will be against Flemenstar, who excels on soft ground, for all that it will ease the emphasis on stamina.

I don’t think that Flemenstar truly stays three miles, and I’m not sure how they are going to be able to ride him to see out the trip. If they ride him up front, use his jumping, settle him in front, he is certain to expend plenty of energy at his jumps. That may enable him coast from the second last fence until after the last, but it is rare that you see a horse coasting in a Hennessy, and I will be surprised if he will be able to coast with Sir Des Champs on his tail.

If he were mine (he wouldn’t be in this race if he were mine, actually, but if he were and if he was running in the race) I would have him settled in behind, but properly settled, unlike in the Lexus, when he was ridden in behind but up on the outside and seeing plenty of daylight. His only hope in my book is if Andrew Lynch buries him in behind horses and holds onto him until well after they have jumped the last. In my guts, however, I just don’t think he stays the trip, and he shouldn’t be the same price as Sir Des Champs.

Message of 9th February:

I have shaken this up and down, and I just can’t see how Flemenstar is going to last home against Sir Des Champs. I think that all things being equal, Sir Des Champs will beat him.

The fact that Sir Des Champs’ owners, Gigginstown House, have left Bog Warrior in the race is a positive. He likes to bowl along in front, and that will make it a true test of stamina, which will be in Sir Des Champs’ favour and against Flemenstar.

We still don’t know how they are going to ride Flemenstar. I hope that they allow him bowl along in front, upsides or even in front of Bog Warrior and Quel Esprit, because, if they do that, I really don’t think he will last home. He has a better chance in my book if they bury him in behind, and Andrew Lynch delays his challenge until half way up the run-in, but he still has to cover the three-mile trip on testing ground however they ride him, and an on-song Sir Des Champs has a favourite’s chance of beating him in my book.

If you are into in-running betting, it is probable that Flemenstar will trade short and that Sir Des Champs will trade long in-running. Flemenstar will probably cruise into the race for a long way, whereas Sir Des Champs will probably be under pressure from a fair way out. So it might be an idea to leave some offers up to lay Flemenstar or – if you are feeling really brave – to back Sir Des Champs in-running. That is a risky strategy because of the possibility of early fallers, and it is niche stuff, so I can’t recommend it as a bet this morning, but I am backing Sir Des Champs again at 13/8.

SIR DES CHAMPS WON (ADV 5/4 AND 13/8, SP 11/8)