Sceau Royal a possible for the Dublin Festival
Alan, who would always prefer a glass of red wine to a pint of Guinness, rarely sends horses to run in Ireland, but he is seriously considering aiming the evergreen Sceau Royal at next month’s Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown.
There have been no signs of the pension book being waved at 11-year-old Sceau Royal this winter. He clocked up winner number 17 on his seasonal debut at Kempton and was then runner-up in the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton.
Alan never expected to ruffle the feathers of Constitution Hill in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton, but there were valid excuses in Sceau Royal finishing only fourth of five.
“You can put a line through that run,” insisted Alan. “He stumbled and lost his back-end jumping the fourth last, and his race was over there and then.
“He has since been given the all-clear by the physio. I think the experience just knocked the wind out of him.”
Sceau Royal, one of the favourites in the Barbury yard, has proved a real money-spinner for owners, Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, amassing almost £700,000 in prize money.
Reflecting on Sceau Royal’s wonderful career, Alan added:”Sceau Royal has been an absolute star since he first walked into the yard of the autumn of 2015. He has been such a grand servant and his enthusiasm is as strong as ever.
“We have him in both the Queen Mother Champion Chase and the Ryanair at Cheltenham, but he will also get an entry for Leopardstown.
“We are leaning towards fences rather than hurdles for the rest of the season, and if he doesn’t go to Ireland he will probably be aimed at the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury before Cheltenham.”
However, Alan’s hopes that Wetherby winner Spartan Army might be a Triumph Hurdle possible were extinguished when he flopped in the Finale Junior Hurdle at Chepstow over Christmas.
He said:”I still think Spartan Army is a very good horse, but I overfaced him on what was only his second run over hurdles.
“I ought to have gone for the easier option at Kempton instead. Remember, he only ran three times for Joseph O’Brien on the Flat, and I don’t think the Triumph would be the right race for him.
“We might be better off working backwards from Aintree, and I would like to find a little novice somewhere and maybe look at the Adonis Hurdle at Kempton.
“On his work at home in the mornings, Spartan Army is a smart horse going forward. He is a big, scopey individual, not just a juvenile hurdler, and I don’t want to throw him in against Willie Mullins’s battalion.”
Ayr’s Scottish Grand National meeting in April is one of Alan’s favourite meetings for obvious reasons, and he is contemplating taking Tritonic north of the border for a tilt at the Scottish Champion Hurdle.
He said:”Ironically, Tritonic won the Adonis in 2021. We tried him over a longer trip in the Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham’s New Year meeting, but he did not stay. He’s come back fine, and the plan is to have one more run before the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury on February 11.
“Ayr is definitely a possibility. The owners (Max McNeill family, in conjunction with Ian Dale) love to have a raiding party up there, so we might think about the Scottish Champion, which is a limited handicap.”