Un De Sceaux moves into Hurdle frame

He has yet to race at Graded level over hurdles, but the Willie Mullins-trained Un De Sceaux is rated a live contender for the Champion Hurdle.

He has yet to race at Graded level over hurdles, but the Willie Mullins-trained Un De Sceaux is rated a live contender for the Champion Hurdle.

That belief was reinforced as he pulverised opponents in the two mile conditions hurdle at Navan on Sunday, leaving observers of the opinion that he could put it up to the best in the blue riband at the Cotswolds.

It’s a strange situation for horse that has never taken on genuine championship contenders to be in, but his four victories in this country have been by wide margins.

He opened his account by beating Sammy Black in a Punchestown maiden last February and followed up with an impressive victory over Moscow Mannon in a novice event at the same venue during the festival meeting.

Reappearing at Thurles before Christmas, he accounted for Rory O’Moore by a wide margin in a three runner affair. All wins were achieved with front running tactics.

It was much the same on Sunday when Ruby Walsh jumped him off in front. Although Foildubh attempted to keep him company he was burned off well before the straight.

Akatara from the Michael Bowe stable took the runner-up position no fewer than 53 lengths in arrears, but was never able to get into the race with any sort of chance as the winner set a hot pace right from flag-fall.

Whether this adds up to Champion Hurdle form remains to be seen. Akatara has scored twice in 42 starts and while Foildubh is a decent horse over fences he hardly has the gears necessary to trouble the two mile specialists over hurdles.

Gowran Park could help provide some of the answers as the Red Mills Trial Hurdle is pencilled in as the next port of call for Un De Sceaux.

Mullins and Walsh got the meeting off to the perfect start when combining to land the opening two mile maiden hurdle courtesy of Aklan.

A former inmate of the John Oxx yard the grey son of Dalakhani was a Curragh maiden winner as well as scoring at Listed level at Roscommon but has been difficult to keep right hence, his belated arrival over hurdles.

A well-supported favourite, the five-year-old was always close to the leaders. He recovered well from a mistake at the third flight and was lucky to avoid Chancol when the latter departed the scene four out.

Aklan looked well in command off the home turn and when Walsh pressed the ‘go’ button at the second last the race was for second place as the combination raced clear to beat McLovin by nine lengths.

While one swallow never makes a Summer this was a nice first effort but with the talent available at novice level in the year Aklan will have to set his sights lower and concentrate on the home circuit.

Milsean created quite a stir when he shed his maiden tag first time up in a four-year-old Dromahane point to point last April for the Waterford stable of Vincent Halley. He was subsequently purchased by Gigginstown House Stud for 115,000 guineas and joined the Mullins team.

Minimum of fuss

He reappeared in the bumper and did the business with the minimum of fuss under the trainer’s son Patrick.

Backed into a shade of odds-on, the Milan gelding came for his race in the straight and Patrick did not have to get over serious with his to defeat Bonzo King by eight lengths. While this looked an ordinary enough bumper on paper the winner did his job well. It will be interesting to see where he fits into the stable plans in the weeks ahead.

Davy Russell has wasted little time in getting over his shock departure as retained jockey to Gigginstown House Stud but he must have thought all his birthdays had come at once when taking the two mile and four novice chase aboard Irish Thistle.

The Luso gelding looked booked for second place going to the final fence as Mad Brian held what looked like an unassailable lead but he landed awkwardly and shot Keith Donoghue out the side door, leaving Irish Thistle to come alone 12 lengths clear of Seskinane. It was cruel luck on Mad Brian, who didn’t put a foot astray up to that point. He is sure to bounce back from this disappointment.

Eoin Doyle’s representative Leavingthelighton had a small following in the marathon two mile and seven furlong maiden hurdle, but had to play second fiddle to Wounded Warrior.

Partnered by Michael Butler Leavingthelighton disputed the lead for much of the journey but in the end had no answer to the superior finishing burst of Wounded Warrior.

If ever a horse deserves to win a race it is Leavingthelighton. A model of consistency, he is as tough and game as they come.