The runaway train came down the track and she blew. A popular nursery rhyme turned into a real-life experience for Daryl Jacob at Cheltenham on Saturday.
Touted as a leading Champion Hurdle contender, Peace And Co blew any chance of taking the StanJames.com International, by running with the choke out for much of the two mile trip. Jacob became a passenger as Henderson’s Triumph Hurdle winner tugged his way to the front early in the race. At no stage did the talented gelding give his jockey any peace. And by the time they turned into the home straight the classy hurdler had run out of puff.
Jacob looked absolutely gutted after the race. This is surely the horse that would have excited him most as the new season approached. His association with owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede has been going from strength to strength. Earlier in the day he had donned the familiar silks when on-board the exciting juvenile Sceau Royal in the JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial. That race went exactly to plan, as he brought a willing partner with a perfectly timed run to sweep to victory.
A day after the big race flop, Nicky Henderson appeared undeterred when speaking of his Champion Hurdle hopeful. He pointed to a collision early in the race as a possible cause for Peace And Co becoming so lit-up. The trainer said: “He's fine this morning and we'll scope him tomorrow and make sure he gets a clean bill of health. But I think what did him was he got a nick on a hind leg when someone galloped into him very early in the race, which lit him right up. He didn't get a chance to drop out and get settled.” Henderson added: “He's got to learn to shut his mouth and breathe, and we'll put a cross-noseband on him now. Fifty per cent of our runners run in them.”
The bookies appeared quick to dismiss the horse as a potential winner at Prestbury Park in March. Initially pushed out to 20’s he is now generally a 12/1 shot for the Champion Hurdle. In a market dominated by Willie Mullins there’s still plenty of time for Nicky Henderson’s fella to prove himself. It would surely be foolish to dismiss a horse under the tuition of one of the most successful trainers of hurdlers in recent times. Binocular and Punjabi are testament of Henderson’s ability at getting it right when it matters.
It would be rude not to mention Saturday’s International Hurdle winner. It’s been quite a stunning progression for the Paul Nicholls trained Old Guard. Just nine months ago he was trailing down the field in the Triumph Hurdle some 25 lengths behind Peace And Co. He now has to be trained as a serious Champion Hurdle contender, though he’ll need to make further giant strides if he is to challenge the might coming from Mullins yard.