I’ve found the Stayers’ Hurdle winner and why Gavin Sheehan’s new tactics proved a genius move

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TWO of last season’s star young hurdles are close to making their return to action with Lossiemouth and Marine Nationale both reported in fine shape by their connections.

Lossiemouth was superb in the JCB Triumph at Cheltenham before going on to Punchestown and taking the Grade 1 Ballymore Champion Four Year Old Hurdle for Willie Mullins.

GettyTriumph heroine Lossiemouthis in top shape and nearing her big return[/caption]

Marine National, meanwhile, took his score to five wins from five runs when defeating Facile Vega in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Festival.

Rich Ricci, who owns Lossiemouth, told me yesterday: “She is A1. We are just taking our time with her.

“Vauban struggled as a four-year-old in open company and we didn’t want to make the same mistake. That’s why we are giving her plenty of time but she’s in great order.”

As for Marine Nationale, he remains on target for Leopardstown’s Christmas Festival with his comeback delayed so far by ground conditions.

Owner-trainer Barry Connell might have kept Marine Nationale hurdling if there wasn’t the presence of Constitution Hill out there, but in any case is pleased to be going over the larger obstacles shortly.

“In another era without a superstar we might have contemplated staying hurdling,” Connell told me.

“But if we had done that he would have been aged seven or eight going chasing and that would have been later than ideal.

“We were going to go to Navan for the Troytown meeting but the ground was bottomless and we said we would wait. He’s ground dependant.

“After Leopardstown the plan is the Irish Ankle and then the Ankle at Cheltenham.

“I’ve been very happy with his schooling – he came from Sam Curling who is a point-to-point person and he would have done some schooling there.

“He’s an athletic horse – we’ve schooled him twice on grass and on the artificial surface and he’s jumped well.

“It’s a natural progression for him to go chasing. The idea would be Arkle this season and the Champion Chase next season. He’s very quick and jumps well.”

Connell had a fantastic 2023-23 campaign with both Good Land and Marine Nationale carrying his yellow colours to big-race success.

Watch out for his silks in maiden hurdles at Christmas in Ireland where ‘we have a couple in those who we hope might be nice’.

On another note…

Most of us who watch racing every day know Gavin Sheehan has bundles of talent and is a class act, but we definitely saw a different side to his skills in Saturday’s Cortal Gold Cup success on Datsalrightgino for Jamie Snowden.

An in-running comment of ‘towards rear on inner, headway from four out, went second just before two out, pressed leader approaching last, soon led, ridden and kept on run-on’ tells one reason why Sheehan got such enjoyment out of the victory.

Yesterday he said to me: “Look, Newbury is a local track so it was great to win there.

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“But I would say 80-85 per cent of my wins have been from the front, where most of the time I’m shi**ing myself thinking I’m going to get caught!

PAFront-runner Sheehan proved he can lurk at the back and still win big races in style[/caption]

“Whereas on Saturday was one of those where I was in behind, and was able to see all the beaten horses as I was going past.

“I could think jeez I’m beating them and I’m beating that. Jumping the last I thought to myself I’ll win this, and coming towards the winning line it was for me a different feeling and a different buzz.

“Jamie has been so loyal and good to me as well and that hasn’t always happened so it means a lot more. I’m so happy to repay him.”

It appears from the front or behind, Sheehan can give a horse a right ride.

Sometimes we should all laugh at the immediate assumptions we make about horses.

Let’s take yesterday’s Grade 1 Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Faiyhouse.

I have read in many places that Teahupoo outstayed Impaire et Passe. It’s as simple as that.

But on paper how likely is that as the reason for defeat?

The Hatton’s Grace is over an extended two miles and four furlongs, and Impaire et Passe stayed on really strongly to deny Gaelic Warrior – a pretty strong stayer himself albeit with speed – over two miles and five furlongs in the Ballymore at the Cheltenham Festival.

Of course Teahupoo, given a fine ride by Jack Kennedy who continues to be such a top talent, might have outstayed his rival, as you can basically say anything you like at this stage.

Teahupoo might just be a better horse. Who knows?

We also have no idea how fit each of the horses was for their return to action.

What we can say with certainty is that Impaire et Passe was on the bridle longer than Teahupoo, and thus it’s logical to believe he would be suited to a strongly run race over shorter.

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But to be quite frank none of us really know. We need more evidence. At this stage it’s guesswork. Once they have raced again we will get a much better idea.

For what it’s worth I think Teahupoo will win the Stayers’ Hurdle as he should have done this year, and Impaire et Passe is a good thing in the Aintree Hurdle should he go there. Time will tell.

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