ANY race at Christmas is extremely hard to win, let alone the Grade Ones, but I would not be one bit surprised on Friday evening if Willie Mullins is celebrating having the two big winners at Kempton and at Leopardstown.
It's probably not possible... things like that just don't tend to happen, but if it is ever going to happen this is the team of horses to do it.
Ruby goes to Kempton to ride Champagne Fever in the King George and Faugheen in the Christmas Hurdle, while at Leopardstown Paul Townend is riding Vautour in the Grade One Racing Post Novice Chase and Kalkir in the Juvenile Hurdle. I can't see which one will be beat.
If Faugheen doesn't win the Christmas Hurdle there's something wrong. I don't know if I would have said before Cheltenham last season that he'd be a Champion Hurdle horse but he was electric at Cheltenham and proved at Punchestown when he won the Herald Champion Novice Hurdle that he had loads of gears and now he's right there in the mix for a Champion Hurdle. It's nine year since Ruby won the Christmas Hurdle on Fethard Lady for Colm Murphy but it's only a couple of days before he bridges that gap as far as I'm concerned.
Champagne Fever is probably the outsider of the four. People have their concerns about him which is fair enough because he has run below form a couple of times at this time of year, but having concerns about him in the King George and knocking him are two different things. I don't have any time for anyone who wants to knock the horse as he has won at two Cheltenham Festivals and was beaten the width of a cigarette paper in another.
He was good in Clonmel and I'm sure he'll improve for that and they all think he's in great nick down in Willie's so this will be the proof in whether he's a Gold Cup horse or not. It would be nice to see a new face in that picture and I think if he's ever going to win a King George this is his year.
It's a strange position for Ruby to be in that he can leave a 1/3 favourite for a Grade One race behind at Leopardstown as he'd give anything to ride Vautour who I would describe as being a very special horse.
Willie has a lot of them but I think what Vautour did in Navan on his chasing debut was simply awesome and we don't see the likes of that very often. It was special. We saw how good a racehorse he was last season and saw nothing at Navan to contradict that and I'm sure he'll prove it on St Stephen's Day with Paul Townend.