RUBY walsh insists he would not swap Un De Sceaux for any two-mile chaser in training despite being impressed with Sprinter Sacre’s resurgent display at Cheltenham on Sunday.
The Willie Mullins-trained Un De Sceaux is unbeaten in four starts over fences since tipping up on his chasing bow at Thurles almost a year ago and the brilliant Arkle winner is a hot favourite to follow up in the Queen Mother Champion Chase back at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
He beat Just Cameron, trained at Middleham by Micky Hammond and ridden by Sheffield-born Joe Colliver, at the Punchestown Festival.
However, Nicky Henderson’s 2013 Champion Chase winner Sprinter Sacre, unbeaten in his first 10 starts over fences and the highest-rated chaser in training a couple of years ago, returned to winning ways in Sunday’s Shloer Chase and Walsh admits his victory has spiced up the division.
“He (Un De Sceaux) summered well. He looks big and strong and seems in good form,” said the jockey. “He has bags of speed, he wears his heart on his sleeve and attacks his fences.
“He is quite keen and likes to get on with it. You’re not going to teach him to drop in this year, because he doesn’t. He’s definitely the one you’d want to have. Would you swap him for something else in the division? I wouldn’t.”
Reflecting on Sprinter Sacre’s Sunday success, Walsh told Racing UK: “Sprinter Sacre bolted in and looks to have made it a lot more competitive.
“The zest that you always associated with him looked to be back – the way that he travelled and the way that he jumped and the authority he did it with.
“You could crib he looked a bit empty from the back of the last, but it was his first run of the season, so of course he was going to get tired. You’d love what he did all the way through the race – it was exciting to watch.”
Meanwhile, Warren Greatrex feels Cole Harden should be “spot on” for his seasonal return in the bet365 Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury later this month after pleasing in a racecourse gallop at the Berkshire track yesterday.
Last season’s Ladbrokes World Hurdle hero warmed up for a shot at the Grade Two event on November 28 when taking part in a two-mile gallop around the Berkshire course’s Flat track under his regular work rider Graham Baines.
In what was a steadily-run piece of work on ground softer than ideal, the six-year-old – victorious in last year’s West Yorkshire Hurdle at Wetherby – looked in good order.
Greatrex said: “I’m very happy and everything has gone well. As I’ve said before he has done physically well over the summer and that is why it has taken us a bit more time to get him fit.”
While the staying hurdle division looks wide open, the Upper Lambourn handler feels his charge will prove a tough nut to crack throughout the campaign.
He said: “I think he was under-estimated last year and to win the World Hurdle was fantastic.
“I don’t think he got the credit he deserved on the day as he won well and left them all toiling and Gavin (Sheehan) said he was not stopping at the line.
“I don’t want it to be a fluke. He is stronger this year and although going through the season he will have to carry a Grade One penalty on ground that may be softer than he likes, he will still make his presence felt whatever he runs in.
“In these top staying races you need to be able to stay three miles in a strong gallop and he does that.”
SARA Bradstock continues to hope for the best after Coneygree suffered a minor setback on Monday.
The Cheltenham Gold Cup winner is due to contest the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury on Saturday week, but his participation was thrown into doubt when he spread a plate.
Bradstock, who is assistant to her trainer-husband, Mark, is keeping her fingers crossed for a swift recovery with a weekend gallop judged crucial to Coneygree’s plans.
She said: “He pulled a shoe; it didn’t cause him any problems but we can’t see if it’s a bruised foot or if he’s brewing an abscess.”