Un De Sceaux took another step towards a possible tilt at the Stan James Champion Hurdle with a facile success at Navan in the Follow Navan On Facebook Hurdle.
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Unbeaten in five career starts, the French import was sent off at 1/12 to beat his two rivals and those odds didn't prove unrealistic as he effortlessly extended his winning sequence to six.
Foildubh, who had finished 11 lengths behind Bobs Worth in the Lexus Chase on his previous start, tried to go with the eventual winner in the first half of the race but was readily seen off and paid the price for those exertions as he faded to finish third with 104-rated mare Akatara filling the runner-up spot.
Willie Mullins thought that may have been the key to judging the merit of his six year old's performance. "I'm just looking at where Foildubh finished and he killed him," he said. "He tried to go with him (Un De Sceaux) and a horse rated way below him passed him (Akatara). He just completely choked. Our fellow killed him trying to go the pace.
"I thought he was more settled today than I'd ever seen him; he didn't jump as well as he can, probably because he was going that bit slower, but even at that pace he took the stuffing out of Foildubh who is a decent horse."
Un De Sceaux will have to be stepped up in class now and, although Mullins has yet to make a plan, Ruby Walsh did have an idea about where Un De Sceaux should head.
"Ruby said maybe the Red Mills Trial Hurdle at Gowran, that's an option, but I'm going to look around and see where we can go," Mullins told At The Races. "That's probably looking about where we're going to go," he responded to the inevitable questions about a possible run in the Champion Hurdle before reckoning that "he's got to improve a stone to beat Hurricane Fly."
The Red Mills Trial Hurdle was used as a launchpad for Cheltenham by Hardy Eustace before each of his two wins in the Champion Hurdle and the prospect of better ground in the spring didn't concern Mullins.
"I think his French form was on good ground, his style of running good ground should be better for him, it could make it easier for him. He's one we're looking forward to all the time," he said.
Walsh added: "He goes a tremendous gallop. From the last hurdle down the back to the first hurdle in the straight he's maintaining a serious gallop.
"I couldn't believe when I looked at the back of the third-last how far back Paul (Carberry, on Foildubh) was. He wears his heart on his sleeve, he's a very good horse and he's obviously going the right way. If he was to turn up in the Champion Hurdle, I don't think The New One would need a pacemaker!"
There was a mixed reaction from bookmakers to the performance with some leaving him unchanged but many more cut his odds for the Festival showpiece and Sky Bet make him a 12/1 chance from 16s.
"Un De Sceaux is still in the 'could be anything' category'," said the firm's spokesman Michael Shinners. "The very fact that Willie Mullins gave a relatively firm indication that he could head to the Champion Hurdle means that we're keen to keep him onside although I wouldn't want to be Ruby Walsh and having to choose between this fellow, Hurricane Fly and possibly Annie Power!"