Dunguib is flying – and not just under the radar
It's about seven weeks now since Dunguib's blood tests gave me cause for concern.
I knew it would take a while to get him right and, I have to admit, it crossed my mind that we could be fighting a losing battle in the race to get to Cheltenham.
In light of that, it's nice to be in the position we are in now. Dunguib will travel over with my head lad Jamie Cody tomorrow ahead of the Stan James Champion Hurdle on Tuesday, and I couldn't be happier with him.
We are going in a bit under the radar this year, but that makes no difference to us either way. All of what was being written about Dunguib 12 months ago didn't have any effect on the way we went about preparing the horse, and the furthest thing from my mind right now is whether or not he is the ‘forgotten horse’ of the race.
Going to Cheltenham with just one run under our belt is not ideal – two was the plan – but that is just the way the ball bounced for us. We made a collective decision back in June that Dunguib would be campaigned through the second half of the season, so it was just unfortunate that events conspired against us to delay his reappearance.
As things turned out, when we eventually got him out in the Red Mills Hurdle at Gowran Park, things could hardly have worked out better. Davy Russell played into our hands by going no gallop on Luska Lad, as the last thing we wanted was to have a gruelling scrap with him, which would have happened if it had been a truly run race.
Davy obviously felt that by setting a steady gallop Dunguib might run his race in the first mile rather than the second, but Brian O'Connell was always going to find it easier to switch the horse off when there were just three runners.
My fear was that, if Dunguib had a tough race, it might knock him back rather than bring him forward. In the run-up to the race, we had been more concerned with getting the horse healthy rather than getting him fit. In the end, it was sheer ability that got him home at Gowran, as we had backed off him considerably when his blood was wrong.
And he has turned the corner in no uncertain fashion since. He had a few easy days after Gowran, but in the last 10 days or so he has improved immeasurably in himself, in his coat, and just in every aspect of his training.
Brian came in to ride Dunguib in his last piece of work on Wednesday. He showed plenty of zip and finished well on the bridle, so that left us all in good spirits.
Dunguib did a few lengths of the swimming pool yesterday; he has been enjoying the sun on his back out in the field and he will have a canter this morning before heading off tomorrow. We have no other runner at Cheltenham next week, though one would be enough if he managed to collect – and I think he could.
Look, it's fair to say that this has all the makings of a vintage Champion Hurdle, but I think the world of Dunguib and we aren't going all the way over there just to make up the numbers. That much is for sure.
Menorah, which beat us in the Supreme Novices' last year, is probably the horse I fear most. He was only a five-year-old then. Now he is battle-hardened and he looks a bloody good horse. If we can beat him, I doubt he'll be too far away.
In the meantime, I have a few entered at Limerick and Navan over the weekend. Gusda might be my best hope in the beginners' chase at Navan on Sunday.
He is a tough little soldier and you might have expected he'd have won over fences by now, but novice chases have been especially competitive this season because of all the racing that has been lost to the weather. Hopefully he will get his turn in the winner’s enclosure soon.
Last Instalment is also in at Navan, but I am going to wait another few weeks with him, as it's only a fortnight since he won a maiden hurdle there.
He is a lovely horse, one that I'd really be looking forward to seeing over fences next term. In 12 months’ time, we might even be talking about Cheltenham for him.
For more information on racing in Ireland this weekend checkout www.goracing.ie