Sign Of A Victory can serve it up to Faugheen
Faugheen is long odds-on to maintain his unbeaten record in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton today (2.35), but the sharp 2m is unlikley to play to his strengths and Sign Of A Victory looks a bit of value to cause an upset.
The Nicky Henderson trained five-year-old has won three of his five starts over hurdles and looked an ultra-smart prospect in the last of those when cruising home in a Listed handicap hurdle on seasonal reappearance at Ascot last month.
Sign Of A Victory travelled ominously well throughout and after being produced to lead at the last cruised home hard on the bridle to beat Dawalan by a cheeky 1/2 a length.
Jockey Barry Geraghty didn’t have to move a muscle, and although Dawalan is no world beater it was the manner of the success which impressed most.
It’s clear that Sign Of Victory has a huge engine and falls into the “could be anything” category, and today’s sharp 2m will be absolutely ideal.
The son of Kayf Tara has a potent turn of foot and is very slick over the obstacles, and although officially rated 14lb inferior to Faugheen is clearly on an upward curve and should have plenty more to offer.
His trainer also has a terrific record in the race having won it six times in the last 13 years, including the last four renewals.
Sign Of A Victory strikes me as a similar type to My Tent Or Yours who landed the spoils 12 moinths ago, and if he is in the slipstream of Faugheen approaching the last I can see him having too much pace for the jolly if it turns into a sprint at the business end of affairs.
The big question is obviously whether Faugheen will be away and gone come the final flight, as Ruby Walsh will surely have to ride him aggressively from the front over such a sharp 2m.
The Willie Mullins trained six-year-old is unbeaten in seven runs under rules, once in bumper and six times over hurdles, and has not been asked a serious question in any of his successes.
Faugheen only had to be ridden out to beat Ballyalton by 4 1/2 lengths in the 2m 5f Neptune at this year’s Cheltenham Festival and put in a monster display on home turf when cruising home hard-held to winning the Grade 1 Champion Novice Hurdle at Punchestown by 12 lengths.
He won the latter in the style of a horse with a massive engine who had the potential to go right to the very top this season, and confirmed that impression when bolting up on seasonal reappearance in the Coral Hurdle at Ascot.
Faugheen made most of the running in the extended 2m 3f contest and after a terrific jump at the last stretched effortlessly clear to win by 3 3/4 lengths fron Blue Fashion.
That success saw Faugheen cut to 2/1 favourite for the 2015 Champion Hurdle by Coral, but this is an entirely different test against better horses and he is still not the most fluent of jumpers.
To me he needs a stiffer test than he will get today, and for that reason Sign Of A Victory gets the nod in a fascinating contest.