Things We Learned » Fluide is under-rated

Fluide is under-rated

Un De Sceaux was good at Ascot on Saturday.  He travelled easily for Ruby Walsh, his jumping was good and he clocked a really good time.  Ascot’s fences are stiff, upright fences, they present a fair test, and Un De Sceaux negotiated them well.  Also, he didn’t appear to be his usual tearaway self.  He appeared to be listening to his rider and, in the main, he met his fences in his stride, he was fluent over them.

This was important.  Remember that, hugely talented and exciting steeplechaser though he is, on his first run in a chase outside of novice company, he had fallen.  It was important that he put in clear round at least, and a performance like Saturday’s was perfect.  It couldn’t have been better really.  On ratings, it was the best run of his life.

With all the Un De Sceaux talk, it looks like the performance that Traffic Fluide put up in the same race has gone under the radar.  Gary Moore’s horse travelled well in rear, jumped accurately and kept on well all the way up the home straight to get to within a short head of beating his more illustrious stable companion Sire De Grugy for second place.

A couple of things about Traffic Fluide.  He is only six, he is four years younger than Sire De Grugy, he is two years younger than Un De Sceaux, and he was making his seasonal debut on Saturday.  Also, he was desperately weak in the market before the off.  He was strong in the morning, but he drifted out to 33/1 in the pre-race market, and he was returned at a Betfair SP of 50.  It is probable that paddock-watchers expected that he would come on considerably for the run.

Also, he should do better on the better ground that he will surely encounter at Cheltenham, which is not necessarily the case with Sire De Grugy or even with Un De Sceaux.

Traffic Fluide was available at 50/1 for the Champion Chase before Saturday’s race.  Of course, that is long gone, but he is still freely available at 16/1, and that still looks far too big.  He is still a bigger price than Sire De Grugy, and that makes no sense at all.

As mentioned before, you go beyond Un De Sceaux in the Champion Chase market, and it is decidedly porous.  Sprinter Sacre is second favourite, but he and Sire De Grugy were slower than the novices Ar Mad and Vaniteux at Kempton at Christmas.  Also, like Sire De Grugy, he is 10 years old now, and the last horse aged in double figures to win the Champion Chase was Moscow Flyer.  Before Moscow, it was One Man.  That was in 1998.

Vautour is unlikely to run in the Champion Chase.  Dodging Bullets hasn’t run yet this season, and has to prove that he is as good as he was last year, which may not be good enough anyway.  Special Tiara is a good horse, but we know how good he is, and it is difficult for a placed horse in the Champion Chase to win it the following year.

Traffic Fluide may be fragile, but most of the main bookmakers are betting non-runner-no-bet on the Champion Chase.  General odds of 16/1, each-way with a run, or 8/1 without Un De Sceaux – each-way also if you like – look big.

Vigil gets even more interesting

The maiden hurdle that A Toi Phil won at Leopardstown on St Stephen’s Day looked like a good race at the time, but it looks even better since last Sunday.

Don’t Touch It, runner-up in the St Stephen’s Day race, ran out an impressive winner of the opening two-mile maiden hurdle at Leoapardstown on Sunday, while A Toi Phil himself was very good in landing the Grade 2 two-and-a-half-mile contest a half an hour later.

And just as a bonus, Master Ruffit, who had finished sixth of the seven runners in that St Stephen’s Day maiden hurdle, sent off at 66/1 and beaten over a hundred lengths, won a Class 5 maiden hurdle at Ayr the previous Tuesday.

Vigil finished close-up third in that maiden hurdle, and he gets more interesting now.  Dermot Weld’s horse looked a likely winner when he moved up on the outside of A Toi Phil on the run to the second last flight, but lack of a recent run probably took its toll on the holding ground.

That was Vigil’s first run since he finished fifth in the Cheltenham Bumper last March.  Also, it was his first run over hurdles, so he is entitled to come on for it, possibly considerably.

He is a classy horse and he is obviously highly-regarded.  He beat Bellshill in a bumper at the Leopardstown Christmas Festival last season, and remember that, the first time he ran in the Cheltenham Bumper, in 2014, Pat Smullen chose to ride him in front of the ultimate winner Silver Concorde.

He should be winning his maiden soon before moving onto bigger things.

Phil flying

A Toi Phil booked his place on the Cheltenham teams of Willie Mullins and Gigginstown (yes, you can play for two teams) with that win in the Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Novice Hurdle on Sunday.

The winning time wasn’t great, but there was a lot to like about A Toi Phil’s performance.  His jumping was good, he travelled like the most likely winner from a fair way out, and he came away willingly on the run-in to put distance between himself and some well-regarded rivals, who finished strung out behind him.

This was effectively just his third run over hurdles, just his second for Willie Mullins, and he is entitled to come on for it.

There is precedent here too.  This race was won last year by Outlander, who did not win at Cheltenham, but the horses who chased him home did.  Runner-up Martello Tower won the Albert Bartlett Hurdle, third-placed Killultagh Vic won the Martin Pipe Hurdle, fourth-placed Windsor Park won the Neptune Hurdle.  Also, back in fifth was No More Heroes, who finished a fine third in the Albert Bartlett Hurdle despite meeting trouble in-running.

For the record, the three horses who chased A Toi Phil home on Sunday were Acapella Bourgeois, Woodland Opera and Chain Gang.

Fahy on fire

Pat Fahy’s top season continued on Thursday when his sole runner at Thurles, Any Drama, ran out an impressive winner of the bumper.

Katie Walsh set out to make all on the Gamut gelding and, after winning the early battle for the lead with favourite Sutton Manor, the pair of them maintained a slender advantage until they turned for home, and then they came clear in the straight.

Any Drama was Fahy’s 11th winner of the season.  We are only at the end of January, and already he has surpassed last season’s total.  Indeed, the Galway native has trained more winners this season so far than he did in the entire of any season since 2006/07.

Aunt Nora’s win in the Grade 2 mares’ novices’ chase is an obvious highlight of the season so far, but there have been others.  Ten Times Better won her bumper and was impressive in winning her maiden hurdle at Clonmel, and Good As Gold won a handicap hurdle at Fairyhouse on New Year’s Day, then ran a cracker to finish fifth in the big Hurdle at Leopardstown two weeks ago.

Fahy has proven in the past with horses like Nuaffe and Mariah Rollins and Dun Belle and Publican – and on the flat with Ballybacka Lady – and more recently with Morning Assembly that he is well able to train a high-class racehorse when he has a high-class racehorse to train.

It is great that Morning Assembly is set to run this afternoon in the two-mile-five-furlong chase at Fairyhouse.  It will be great to see the Grade 1 winner back on a racecourse for the first time since April 2014.  The fact that he holds entries in the Ryanair Chase and the Gold Cup suggests that Fahy is happy that he is showing some of his old sparkle at home.

Amended Lucky (Hill) 15

If you want to make your Lucky (Hill) 15 exclusively a Willie Mullins gig – and let’s face it, you are starting on a positive if you are making anything exclusively a Willie Mullins gig – you have your fourth horse now.  Yorkhill in the Supreme, Bellshill in the Neptune, Shaneshill in the JLT Chase and A Toip Hill in the Albert Bartlett.  All with a run, of course.

Stick in the Dubs for the All-Ireland if you want to make it a Lucky (Hill) 16.

(It being the year that’s in it and all.)

© The Irish Field, 30th January 2016