Taquin confirms positive impression

  • Last Updated: December 31 2012, 12:22 GMT

Ian Brindle takes a closer look at some of the big hurdling performances of the week and you can watch them here too!

Taquin Du Seuil: Challow hero
Taquin Du Seuil: Challow hero

When Jonjo O'Neill speaks positively about his novices - it's often worth listening to and having noted his post-race comments after Taquin Du Seuil's victory at Sandown - the five-year-old served notice at Newbury that he's going to be a major factor in this season's championship races.

The combination of inclement weather and testing ground can often exaggerate superiority and given the Challow's mediocre record of producing recent Festival winners during the same season (the last two winners didn't get to Prestbury Park and Wichita Lineman's Albert Bartlett win in 2006 is the only successful alumnus) - this should very much be borne in mind when Festival picks are considered.

In many respects, he reminds me of another O'Neill stalwart in Keen Leader. A physically imposing sort with a luxurious stride, its hoped that he doesn't have the frailties that dogged that inmate of some ten years prior.

Predictably the Albert Bartlett and the Neptune were mentioned as options afterwards though I wouldn't be completely surprised if he goes on to be a better horse beyond March.

Having looked back at the race - I wonder if Paul Nicholls might have gone home wondering "what if" with regard to Dodging Bullets.

The Ditcheat maestro decision to pitch him in the Christmas Hurdle was a brave call and he didn't disappoint behind Darlan but with Martin Broughton also owning Easter Day, you can understand why the plans were made as they were.

Win, lose or draw - the fact that he beat River Maigue (won at Kempton on Boxing Day) at Cheltenham by one-and-a-half lengths, and giving 7lb away, suggests that he is clearly very useful indeed.

It was business as usual for Jezki as Jessie Harrington's inmate carried all before him in the Future Champions Novice Hurdle and the trainer has a live chance of completing a rare gap on her CV if he makes it to Prestbury Park.

The absence of current Triumph Hurdle favourite, Our Conor was unfortunate at Leopardstown though Blood Cotil proved a worthy winner of the Q8 OILS Juvenile Hurdle.

Willie Mullins had been worried beforehand about his tendency to pull hard in his races but the generous early pace would have helped and this was a highly professional performance relative to his age.

As all eyes were predictably elsewhere, John Quinn unleashed his latest salvo in the division as Hidden Justice opened his account at Wetherby.

Despite being a little cumbersome over the early flights, his hurdling improved as the contest continued and he put the race to bed quickly once asked.

Having never previously won on the turf when trained by Amanda Perrett, the 30 000gns that he realised at the Tattersalls Sales looks less of a gamble than it did.

It was always going to be a tough period for chasing following the changing of the guard at championship level but the novice division looks as exciting as I can remember in recent years.

Having been a keen fan of Sprinter Sacre ahead of his 2011/12 campaign, it's almost impossible not to be drawn into the parallels of comparison with current Arkle favourite, Simonsig as he routed the opposition at Kempton.

Nicky Henderson had always had two miles in mind for him over fences and this was a sensible ride from Barry Geraghty as he allowed the horse to learn something about the game by getting in close and allowing him to negotiate the fences rather than dictate when to go from one side to the other.

Perhaps Henderson himself summed up best when he remarked "Hinterland is not a mug, but we've given him 11lb yet it wasn't a contest."

His biggest opposition come March looks to be Arvika Ligeonniere and Willie Mullins' seven-year-old kept up his clean sheet over fences with victory in the Racing Post Novice Chase.

Predictably much was made of his tendancy to jump right at a few of his fences though Mullins thought that the ground conditions probably had their part to play in its' manifestation.

Unfortunately the value of his Drinmore Chase victory took something of a knock as Dedigout dropped away quickly as the Topaz Novice Chase began in earnest.

The trainer's disappointment won't have lasted for too long as Back In Focus burgled the prize from stable companion, Aupcharlie in a finish typical of the sort we enjoyed at Leopardstown all week.