Chacun is the real deal and Cyrname might just be fit for a King
As he eyes the festive calendar, Ruby Walsh is drawn towards one horse in particular. Chacun Pour Soi.
As Ruby bowed out of the game in May, Chacun announced himself belatedly as a potential equine superstar by romping home, spread-eagling a field that included winners of both the Arkle and JLT.
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Niggling injuries have handicapped the Susannah Ricci-owned horse in recent times and, although some might savour a Gold Cup tilt, a Champion Chase may be the primary target.
This Friday, he will be expected to deliver in the Paddy Power-sponsored Grade One chase over two miles at Punchestown.
"He's the real deal," says Walsh, who has been aboard the horse in Willie Mullins' Closutton HQ. "He's a lovely horse and gave me a great feel. You'll see for yourselves over Christmas. It's one of the most exciting horses in training."
The King George is the stand-out race for most; only seven winners but with some navigating a different route to the Gold Cup, it could have been even better had Cyrname and Altior delayed their Ascot clash.
"Imagine the King George if Altior hadn't clashed with Cyrname? And they were both going to Kempton off the back of wins elsewhere to take on Footpad, Lost in Translation, and Clan Des Obeaux. There'd be nothing else to talk about in racing.
"I'd stick with Cyrname, just because of the pace he has and the way that he travels, I'd be for him. But for the Gold Cup, I'd be jumping ship and siding with Lostintranslation,
"Footpad was good at Thurles and I think the intention is to run at Kempton. The Footpad who won the Arkle would have a super chance in the King George but he won at Thurles, and it's hard to compare that form to a King George.
"But he showed his health and his wellbeing that day and I don't think the trip would be any trouble to him. He's a big runner and he's a great price each-way."
Laurina and Faugheen, two more charges from Walsh's erstwhile maestro Mullins, should also be seen out this Christmas at Leopardstown and Limerick respectively.
The former could clash with Joseph O'Brien's exciting Fakir D'Oudairies in the Grade One Racing Post Novice Chase.
"Leopardstown will suit Laurina. There's only two fences inside the last five furlongs and that will suit her.
"She's a very good jumper but jumping is Fakir D'Oudairies' greatest strength. He could poach a lot of ground down the back straight with the way he jumps. If there's any rain at Leopardstown that would also suit Laurina. It should be a great race.
"Faugheen (also entered in a Leopardstown chase so keep an eye on the Irish Independent) is in really good order at home. He's a former Champion Hurdle winner and he hasn't a whole lot of miles on the clock. I know they're very, very happy with him at home."