In my last post I rated Rubi Ball for the Gold Cup and, as is so often the case, that dream has been scuppered. He is one of the less high profile absentees from Cheltenham since, since then, Sprinter Sacre and Cue Card are also out (the former a lesser surprise as I pointed out at the time).
We’ve also had a number of trials since then so it’s time to take stock of those that remain (after intervening trials?) and to look at those that are not Cheltenham bound. What is striking is that a number of trainers are looking at the “Festival season” and so they should given the money on offer. As an owner, you would be forgiven for thinking that there is super money on offer at Cheltenham. Not so. Aintree and Punchestown have for some years offered better money for “equivalent” races so there should be no surprise that the owners of, say, Balder Succes, (let alone suitable courses) are keen on other options (if that is what they are).
Perhaps the best example is Annie Power. If you owned her without any others in the race, would you run her in the Champion Hurdle? Of course you would! There is a real issue, probably more than the Fenton possible drugs issue, concerning which race this horse runs in. The only conceivable reason that she doesn’t run in the race is that WP wants to clear the way for Hurricane Fly. OK. I write a little blog so I don’t need to worry about who thinks about it and this might be her chance for greatness. If she isn’t entered and declared then I’m afraid that it will reflect badly on both the owner and trainer.
If WP thinks that Hurricane Fly is genuinely the best then he will allow Annie Power to run against him. If he doesn’t then Annie Power should be allowed to emerge as the best hurdler of the year, thereby undermining Hurricane Fly’s win. No-one should be under any illusion that WP is the best trainer in Ireland. I’ve had the undoubted pleasure of being a co-owner of a Supreme Novices’ entrant and Grade One winner with him but, if I was Rich Ricci (let’s face it – he’s a “challenging man” (note the quotes)), I would insist on this very good horse running in the best option. Having heard him speak to @MCYeeehaaa in a very open and impressive interview on the admirable Sunday Forum I take him as a good chap who loves Irish racing and has invested in it. If I was him I would insist that Annie Power runs in the Champion Hurdle.