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Golden clues are gleaned

LAST Friday, this writer posed four questions that could have been answered over the weekend – here’s what resulted.

1 A Gold Cup candidate in the Hennessy? Much of the support prior to the race was about Aiteen Thirtythree and Great Endeavour, and while it looked clear that the latter didn’t stay the distance after his Paddy Power Gold Cup win, Aiteen Thirtythree just wasn’t good enough on the day.

It was an emotionally-driven victory for the Mattie Batchelor-ridden Carruthers, who has actually run in the last two Gold Cups at Cheltenham.

He was fourth behind Imperial commander in 2010, and was beaten in ninth over 56 lengths by Long Run this year, and although his jockey was convinced the horse wasn’t right, it’s hard to see him make up all that ground.

So unlike the Denman renewals, this year’s Hennessy is extremely unlikely to throw up a Gold Cup winner.

2 Is Binocular still a Champion Hurdle candidate? Seemingly not.

For the third year in a row, Binocular has gone to the Fighting Fifth Hurdle and started his season with a defeat.

Of course, two years ago he put that behind him when it mattered and won the Champion Hurdle.

On Saturday, he was, like so many have been before, forced into submission by the front-running, tough-as-teak Overturn, who is arguably the toughest horse in training at the moment.

If Hurricane Fly returns at Christmas and gets to Cheltenham in anywhere near the form he was last March, Binocular won’t be able to regain the Champion Hurdle crown, and it would be questionable if he’d even finish in front of the likes of Thousand Stars.

3 Can Willie Mullins be stopped? Willie Mullins’ recent form has been incredible, and just one runner at Gowran Park on Saturday yielded probably the most impressive win of the day as Call The Police opened his account over fences.

A rare blank from yesterday’s meetings at Navan and Wexford was somewhat compensated by an even rarer point-to-point success as Bowfinger won at Boulta.

He is not the champion trainer by accident, but his recent form has eclipsed Irish racing somewhat.

There is no jump racing until Saturday in Ireland, so Irish racing will get a chance to catch its breath after Mullins’ blistering run.

4 Will the Troytown produce a Grand National winner? Possibly, but the winner, Groody Hill, won’t be winning at Aintree in 2012.

Yesterday’s game performance by the Christy Roche-trained and JP McManus-owned Groody Hill was a second consecutive win in the race for jockey Alan Crowe, who was at his best to get the grey up.

However, the progressive sort is only five, and even if he did continue on an upward curve and tempted connections to think about Aintree, new guidelines put forward by the British Horseracing Authority will prevent them from doing so as the minimum age requirement is set to be seven.

Groody Hill needed every yard of yesterday’s gruelling three-miler, and possibly has the Paddy Power at Leopardstown over Christmas next on his agenda. Don’t rule out a Grand National attempt in time.