Alpha Des Obeaux was a clear second best behind Thistlecrack at Cheltenham and with Colin Tizzard’s exceptional talent out of the way this time, he can have his day in the sun in the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle at Punchestown.
It is a shame for Irish racegoers that Thistlecrack does not get the chance to strut his stuff due to a minor setback, but it does allow Alpha Des Obeaux a chance of victory at the highest level for trainer Mouse Morris.
The swings and roundabouts in this game are amazing and after a wretched run of luck with his horses, this season has seen Morris return right to the top, winning both the English and Irish Grand Nationals.
He has always rated Alpha Des Obeaux, and he would have been second to Thistlecrack at Aintree last season had he not fallen before going on to finish as runner-up to Nichols Canyon at this meeting over two and a half miles.
His owners were keen to send him chasing this term, but Morris knew he was capable of reaching greater heights over timber and so it has proved, unfortunately for the six-year-old he is around at the same time as one of the greatest staying hurdlers of the modern era.
He warmed up for Cheltenham by winning the Galmoy Hurdle comfortably, despite hating the ground, and was the only horse to finish in the same parish as Thistlecrack at Cheltenham, beaten seven lengths.
Morris skipped Aintree to keep him fresh for this and his patience can be rewarded before he no doubt goes chasing next season.
It is simply impossible to make a case for anything to beat Douvan in the Ryanair Novice Chase.
The six-year-old could be the closest thing we have seen to Kauto Star in that he has so much ability, distance may be no object.
* Selections -
Chelmsford: 5.55 Gerrard’s Fur Coat, 6.30 Symbolic, 7.00 Hoofalong, 7.30 Daisy Boy, 8.00 Saved My Bacon, 8.30 We Are Ninety, 9.00 Foie Gras.
Redcar: 2.05 Baltic Beau. 2.35 Brockholes, 3.05 Dream Farr, 3.35 Ice Alert, 4.10 Dandyleekie, 4.45 A J Cook, 5.20 Footlight.
Lingfield: 1.50 Wasseem, 2.20 What A Party, 2.50 Inniscastle Lad, 3.20 Barleysugar, 3.55 Fire And Passion, 4.30 Baileys Mirage, 5.05 Exist.
Punchestown: 3.40 Joshua Lane, 4.15 Sizing Codelco, 4.50 Josies Orders, 5.30 ALPHA DES OBEAUX (NAP), 6.05 Cup Final, 6.40 Douvan, 7.15 Missy Tata, 7.45 Tamlough Bay.
Sedgefield: 5.15 Air Glider, 5.45 Clues And Arrows, 6.15 Down Time, 6.50 Roxyfet, 7.20 Archipeligo, 7.50 Northern Bay, 8.20 Happy Hollow.
Double: Alpha Des Obeaux and Symbolic.