Hard to fault Dynaste
Arguably no horse came closer to spoiling the Big Buck's party last season than Dynaste and it was the David Pipe-trained grey who created the best impression on the first day of Cheltenham's Open meeting when making a successful start over fences in the Steel Plate And Sections Novices' Chase.
- Related Content
Should I never need any steel plate or sections, I will look no further than one of this great game's most longstanding sponsors - who seem to have been putting their name to jumps races since I was in short trousers.
Dynaste flopped in the World Hurdle on his final start last season, but had briefly looked as if he was getting the better of Big Buck's previously in the Cleeve Hurdle at this track when scooting to the front two out, only to be reeled in by his old foe.
That level of form clearly marks him out as a high-class performer and the fact that he was able to outspeed Fingal Bay over two and a half miles (surely as short a trip as he wants) offered huge encouragement for the future - as did his fluent round of jumping.
Bookmakers were entirely justified in cutting his price for the RSA Chase as a consequence of this performance. Sky Bet initially went 8/1, before re-adjusting to 6/1, but the longer price is still available in a couple of places.
But the horse from the race that I would want to keep on side is third-home Unioniste, who raced and jumped with enthusiasm and stayed on again up the run-in having been outspeeded by the first two on the sprint from the home turn.
I can see this horse running over three miles-plus before too long - just as his pedigree would suggest as a half-brother to My Will by a sire, Dom Alco, whose progeny all want a trip (as Al Ferof will hopefully prove in the Paddy Power Gold Cup).
Paul Nicholls made the rather surprising pronouncement that he was considering the Christmas Hurdle after Dodging Bullets took the two-mile novice event.
While a wind operation has undoubtedly helped the four-year-old show more fight in the finish, that kind of contest could prove a tough ask.
He may well be seen to even better effect being ridden from behind the pace in a properly-run contest, but even so this victory proved little other than Ruby Walsh's talent for improvisation from the front as the race was stolen, having been run at a farcical pace and producing a winning time nearly 40 seconds above standard.