THE WORLD LOOKED RATHER DIFFERENT A YEAR AGO
The world looked rather different a year ago: Brexit was strangling politics, politics was strangling Brexit, Prince Andrew was unimpeachable and Altior was unbeatable. Cyrname was the Maitlis to Altior’s Andrew, the examination equally diaphoretic, with Altior equally short on answers, but why was that?
The permutations are greater in number and nuance than we imagine, though the more you review Ascot the harder it is to escape the conclusion that Altior has, to pinch an American racing term, ‘lost a step.’
It’s true that he didn’t jump quite so efficiently or effectively as Cyrname, and it’s also true that the Christy Chase was a home fixture for Cyrname in terms of both track and trip, rationalising the result, if not assuaging the actual fact that Altior never really engaged him at all.
The dual champion chaser couldn’t muster the speed when it mattered to put it to Cyrname. That’s the part I have a problem with, and that’s the point he has to prove whenever and wherever he’s next seen, more so if reverted to two miles.
The world looked rather different a year ago, to the day: Buveur D’Air was second-favourite versus Samcro in the Fighting Fifth. What looked at the time to be a pretender pounded, amid a show of strength by the champion, was clearly something less, given how both their campaigns went subsequently, but Buveur D’Air put some Punchestown gloss on by May.
To some extent, Altior now finds himself where Buveur D’Air was last season, suddenly ‘vincible’ if that is indeed the associated antonym of invincible. If a peak Altior was Matt Damon, Buveur D’Air was Ben Affleck, their career running parallel and both box office but one always bigger than the other.
Racehorses, like actors, are pretty easily pigeonholed, but the enduring suspicions about Buveur D’Air are that he was around at the right era to become a multiple award winner, rather than put in any command performances.
All the same, we still seem to be in that era and, with no young guns firing warning shots across Buveur’s bow, the division is still theoretically his for the taking, and another routine win in the Fighting Fifth will surely see him halve in price (currently available at 5/1) for the Champion Hurdle, deservedly or not.
The world looked rather different a year ago, to the day: when Samcro, taught a lesson by Buveur D’Air, was beginning to unravel. Hype is a hollow vessel, and it’s easy to forget how quickly Samcro filled it up in his novice hurdle campaign, before the lung infection that blighted his second season.
Refreshed, reprogrammed and rerouted to fences, Samcro looked much more his former self when cruising around Down Royal, on his way to a 17-length win which proved he was back in the fast lane, without quite erasing or eclipsing the cloud that had hung over him for a while, as it was a low-pressure environment, the competition thin and the time comparatively modest.
He’s back in a Grade 1 this weekend, for the Drinmore at Fairyouse, which is D-day for him, defining his destiny, as it will be a Maitlis-style interrogation for him by Fakir D’Oudairies, giving the 4-y-o as much as 8lb in weight-for-age.
At Samcro’s hurdling pomp, he was 5/6-favourite against Melon (11/4) when both came down, in tandem, at the same flight in the Punchestown Champion Hurdle, and Melon was the one who Fakir D’Oudairies clinically contained when the pair made their chasing debut at Navan earlier this month.
It wouldn’t surprise me if Fakir D’Oudairies started favourite against Samcro on Sunday, and Samcro will have to indeed be special to catch him around Fairyhouse.
The ride looked rather different a year ago to what it presumably will be on Saturday: we’re talking Dingo Dollar in the Ladbrokes Trophy. In the 2018 edition, Dingo Dollar touched around even-money in running before fading into third behind the strong-staying Colin Tizzard pair, easily explained because Dingo Dollar was too mean and keen for his own good, under such a positive ride.
Same approach (via a handicap hurdle at Newbury), but a different day, a different jockey, a different strategy (one supposes) and also different headgear, a visor called for this time. I included Dingo Dollar in my Ten To Follow list for this very reason, knowing that he’s tricky but thinking that he only needs to get it right once to accumulate big points.
Odds of 14/1 underestimate his chances on Saturday.