Monday 21 October 2019

Min and Mullins' top two-milers will avoid monster Altior if at all possible

Min, with Ruby Walsh up, jumps the last on the way to winning the John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Min, with Ruby Walsh up, jumps the last on the way to winning the John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Michael Verney

"The target is to avoid Altior, wherever he goes we'll go in the opposite direction," were the somewhat tongue-in-cheek words of Ruby Walsh following Min's smooth John Durkan Chase success at Punchestown yesterday which summed upped another informative weekend.

The mighty Altior is the only starting point as Walsh witnessed the class of Nico de Boinville's mount first-hand when going down bravely on Willie Mullins' Un De Sceaux, which produced one of his best career performances in defeat.

The sight of the dynamic duo jumping the last upsides in Saturday's Tingle Creek will live long in the memory of all racing disciples but once they came to the other side, it was the same old story from Altior.

Unbeaten

Nicky Henderson's monster made it look easy when powering clear on the uphill run to the finish to stretch his unbeaten streak over fences to 10 and put nine-time Grade One winner Un De Sceaux to the sword.

Altior (now 8/13 favourite) may have scared off many of his potential Champion Chase rivals with the two-mile king enhancing his superstar status and earning his place among the elite alongside the likes of Moscow Flyer and Sprinter Sacre.

Un De Sceaux may step up in trip and again tackle the Ryanair Chase (for which he is a 10/1 shot) come March and that's a department where Mullins' cup is overflowing with Min looking better than ever to take the 2m4f Grade One.

Seven lengths off Altior last March, it's hard to envisage the seven-year-old improving enough to get much closer in three months but is an obvious option, although he shot to the head of the Ryanair market (6/1) alongside stablemate Footpad (6/1).

While Footpad disappointed on his seasonal debut - where he suffered a small overreach injury - he remains an exciting chaser with Mullins expected to keep him at the minimum trip after his Naas spill last month upset plans for the six-year-old to try longer distances.

It was a pleasure to see race-riding at its finest as Jack Kennedy clinically shut the door on Walsh and Min approaching the second-last in the John Durkan, something which drew the respect of Walsh.

Kennedy continues to belie his teenage years and Shattered Love ran a belter in second with the Gold Cup her ultimate aim - for which she is 25/1 - and she was staying on well enough at the finish to suggest that she could make the frame in time.

Last year's RSA Chase winner Presenting Percy (9/2) currently heads the Gold Cup betting but Pat Kelly's charge is still without a run this season due to fast ground, although it was interesting to hear owner Philip Reynolds float the idea of supplementing him for the King George, which would be a Christmas surprise for every racing fan.

A possible pretender to Altior's throne came crashing back down to earth at Cork in the Hilly Way Chase with Great Field forgetting his landing gear but Pat Fahy's Castlegrace Paddy shone bright in his absence and is one for the notebook after giving Doctor Phoenix a fair beating.

Days like yesterday have been few and far between in the last 12 months for the Mullins-Walsh axis with the jockey enduring a nightmare injury run but the pair got back to what they do best at the Kildare track with a treble of winning favourites.

Tornado Flyer - last year's Punchestown Champion Bumper winner - didn't blow anyone away on his hurdling debut and made life tricky for Walsh given his keenness but did enough to suggest that he should be taken seriously in future.

Getabird is another exciting prospect after a successful chasing debut but talk of Cheltenham is folly with all and sundry feeling that he needs to be going right-handed, so a trip to the Cotswolds is unlikely with the impressive six-year-old expected to visit Limerick at Christmas.

Another horse that won't be at the Festival next March is Henderson's old favourite My Tent Or Yours, which will be sent to JP McManus' plush equine retirement home in Martinstown as "his old joints were starting to get a little bit rickety".

The plight of the Mayo footballers not winning Sam Maguire is often lamented but My Tent Or Yours also lost nothing in defeat with four second-place finishes at the Festival, including three second-place finishes in the Champion Hurdle.

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