Scudamore says: Ballynagour has a cracking chance if on a going day
Thistlecrack’s win in the Long Walk Hurdle last Saturday was very straightforward. He did everything I hoped he would do really. I have never won a Grade 1 so easily. He stamped his class on the race throughout and he felt as impressive as he looked.
When I won on him at Aintree I thought he was a good horse. But it was when he got beaten at Punchestown that I realised what a good horse he was, as he didn’t travel as well during the race as he had at Aintree, yet he still nearly won. He wasn’t at his best and yet he still should have won.
By the time we ran at Newbury I was confident that he was up to competing in that kind of race, and when he won that I knew there was still a lot to improve on. You never expect to win a Grade 1 as easily as Thistlecrack did on Saturday but I wasn’t surprised if I’m honest.
I think Cheltenham will suit him. We’ll be running on the New Course in the World Hurdle which will suit him even better than the Old Course in my opinion. There aren’t many chinks in his armour. He’s won on good ground. He’s got stamina and based on this season’s form he’s the one that they’ve all got to beat.
It doesn’t look the strongest division at this stage but Willie Mullins probably still has a couple of aces up his sleeve. Perhaps if The New One finishes third on Boxing Day they might decide to step him up in trip.
As we enter the New Year he is on top of my list when it comes to horses I’m looking forward to in 2016.
It’s nice to have a few days off at Christmas with Lottie and the kids. With Bangor off last Tuesday it meant I have four days off before it all cranks back into action on Boxing Day.
I schooled a few horses on Tuesday but then it’s a case of having a few days relaxing. It’s very rare for all of us to be together for a few days. Most of the time, even if I’m not riding, the kids are at school, or Lottie might be working, so it’s fun to spend some time together.
I ride Unique De Cotte in the 1.25pm Kempton. He was second in the Pertemps last year and is having his first run over fences. I’ve schooled him and he’s jumped nicely. He has his own way of jumping hurdles but he has done a lot of schooling so it will be interesting to see how he progresses.
He has the size and scope to be a chaser and he was a decent hurdler. I’d like to think he might make a better chaser than a hurdler but it doesn’t always work out that way. He’s got to improve a bit in a race like this as he’s straight in off his hurdles mark.
In the big race the 3.10pm, the King George, I’m on Ballynagour. He ran terrible last time but he does throw in the odd stinker. On his best form I think he could run well. It’s a very strong King George so not for one minute am I saying that he’s going to beat the likes of Don Cossack and co , but he was only beaten a neck by Silviniaco Conti at Aintree, and a couple of lengths by Cue Card at Wetherby and he is a Prix La Barka Hurdle winner.
If he’s on a going day he’d have a cracking chance. It just depends whether he’s on a going day or not and how he goes. Realistically he’s one of the outsiders but he has the ability to outrun his odds.
I’ve always thought the race and Kempton would suit him, but he’s just never been able to get there. It’s just unfortunate that the day he has got there is the hottest King George in years. They are always hot but this looks particularly special.
Martin Pipe trained an outsider Challenger Du Luc who went so close against See More Business. David and Martin have never won the race. In fact I’ve come second three times and yet to win it, so it’s about time I pulled my finger out.
My gut feel is that Cue Card will win. He should be the favourite. Don Cossack was brilliant around Aintree last year. I wasn’t so impressed him with him when he won at Down Royal last time.
I thought he didn’t travel so well. He is a good horse. You have to respect Silviniaco Conti but he’s on the downgrade now and Vautor still has to prove it over this trip and until I see it I won’t believe it.
In the last race at 3.45pm I’m on Max Forte for Chris Down. He won first time out and was third last time and will have a decent chance. He is probably my best chance on the day. Chris is a lovely man who trains just outside Exeter, a proper gentleman and a real pleasure to ride for. He has a small string and does very well. It’s a real family operation and a good one at that.