It’s on days like tomorrow that I often think jumps has become TOO much about Cheltenham. The Clarence House is a Grade 1 race and should be one of the highlights of the season, but all anyone will be thinking about is what’ll happen in the Champion Chase in six weeks’ time.
It seems to be the same throughout the season. Barring the King George, it seems any Graded race is merely a pre-cursor to the main events in March.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the Festival, but sometimes I just feel the season as a whole has become a victim of its own phenomenal success, whereby people are just wishing the rest of the year away until it’s time to gather at Cheltenham again.
You don’t get that on the Flat; you wouldn’t see the Guineas as a trial for Royal Ascot or the King George as a warm-up for the Arc.
Jumps gets many things right but I prefer the narrative of the Flat.
There are only five runners in the Clarence House tomorrow, but what a classy affair it looks.
Un De Sceaux hardly turned a hair to win the Arkle and although he has fallen twice since then, I don’t actually think he is a problem jumper; it’s just that, because he’s so bold, he sometimes gets in a bit close to his fences, but I’m sure Willie Mullins will have addressed it and I don’t think it’s going to stop him winning tomorrow.
He’s a relentless galloper, will love the ground and, although it was nice to see Sire de Grugy back to winning ways in the Tingle Creek, I think UDS will have too much for Gary Moore’s horse.
There’s been some interesting changes afoot at Godolphin, with John Ferguson giving up his training role to become Chief Executive.
Formerly Sheikh Mohammed’s bloodstock advisor, he later trained Godolphin’s Flat cast-offs over jumps for a few years – with great success, I should add - but has given all that up to head the team, and I think it’s a terrific choice.
The Flat has sorely missed those famous blue silks going at it hammer and tongs with Coolmore over the past few years and I think this is a real signal of intent that they want to get right back right to the very top.
Ferguson knows the operation inside out and I think it won’t be long before we see their retained UK trainers, Saeed Bin Suroor and Charlie Appleby, fire home Group 1 winners again.
With the stallions they have, namely Dubawi, I see little reason why they can’t compete with Coolmore again.