Un De Sceaux did his best to throw it away, yet still had enough in the locker to battle back to a thrilling success in the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown.
This was a case of the quicker horse winning, rather than the most fluent jumper succeeding. Mullins’ chaser is a classy sort, but he’s not one for standing off a fence and launching himself in an extravagant manner. He got in close at the last two fences, and each time appeared to hand the initiative to Sire De Grugy. But Walsh’s mount is quick over the ground, and had enough time from the last to the line to get his head back in front.
Walsh was clearly thrilled with the victory, and said: “It's a great race to be part of and I've ridden some wonderful horses in it, I've been very lucky. Being the champion that he is, Sire De Grugy served it up to us, I got back on top going to the last and when I got hold of him he started to rally all the way to the line, and he's won over further. This horse wears his heart on his sleeve, he just has that natural will to win. It's brilliant. He's a pleasure to ride.”
Colm O'Connell owns Un De Sceaux with father Edward, and said: “It's very emotional for us, he's a family horse. This win is dedicated to my parents, who are at home and didn't travel today. This is the biggest day of our racing lives and our thanks go to Willie Mullins, Ruby Walsh and all the team. They train him, and we pay the bills - that's our only involvement.”
Watching in Ireland, Mullins said of the victory: “I left it up to Ruby to ride the race as he found it as he knows the other horses so well. He settled him well and he is probably settling better with a bit of age. It was a real battle. He'd two untidy jumps at the last two and had to dig deep. I felt he was better equipped to run in a race like that on his first run of the season.”
The race developed as many had anticipated, with Ar Mad setting a strong gallop from the front. All looked well for the returning youngster, until a serious error at the first of the railway fences almost brought him to his knees. The loss of momentum took him from first to third, and he suddenly looked a little sluggish. As the front two went head to head from the last, it was notable just how well Ar Mad finished off the race. Ring-rust put paid to his chances this time, but he remains a potential star.
Having come so close to winning another Tingle Creek, Gary Moore was far from disappointed when speaking to Channel 4: “I thought once he'd (SDG) got upsides him he'd just about stay on, but I think he probably outstayed us. I felt I might just have taken the edge off him running him two weeks ago, he's getting a bit older and to have two tough races in two weeks at the age of 10 takes a bit of doing, so fair play to the horse.”
Of Ar Mad he added: “He showed what a good horse he is, to make a mistake like he did and not be beaten too far after nearly 300 days off shows what a good horse he is. He's the one to take out of the race for me, I'd take them all on again any day of the week. I'm not worried about stepping up in trip, I think he'd go further now.”
Speaking yesterday, Moore reiterated the possibility of an assault on the King George, when saying: “Both horses are fine this morning, which is the main thing. I think Ar Mad proved he is a very talented horse. We could run him over three miles or two and a half and I don't think he'd have a problem. I'll speak to his owner (Ashley Head), but we could supplement him for the King George. I suppose it might depend on what else runs, like Thistlecrack. His next run will either be the Desert Orchid at Kempton or the King George, I think.”
The future looks bright for Ar Mad, though possibly at trips beyond the minimum trip. Un De Sceaux once again proved himself a solid performer, though is undoubtedly vulnerable to a bolder jumping two-miler. The Tingle Creek probably confirmed that the division is at the mercy of Mullins’ latest star chaser, Douvan.