Trueshan is primed to defend his Long Distance crown at Ascot
After the drenching that we had last week-end, it is amazing to think that parts of the Huntingdon course are being called ‘good to firm’ for today’s meeting, but hopefully our smart bumper mare Kay Tara Tara, who comes from a family that Alan knows so well – will cope with top of the ground conditions when she makes her jumping debut against just three opponents in the mares maiden hurdle.
However, there does not seem much doubt that she will encounter contrasting conditions to what Trueshan can expect when he tries to win an unprecedented fourth Champions Long Distance Cup at Ascot on Saturday.
Few would begrudge Trueshan his favoured easy ground on the Royal Heath. Alan and the seven-year-old’s enthusiastic owners have been itching to have a crack at the Ascot Gold Cup, but, while 2023 has been the worst summer on record, the one month that we did have to dig out the sunglasses was June, denying our stable-star another chance of lifting the most coveted staying crown in racing.
Ascot had 23mm of rain in three days last week and they might well get another 20mm before Saturday, so rest assured there will be no complaints about the ground from the Trueshan team as even if the executive take up the option of switching the races on the round course to the inner track conditions will still be testing.
Alan was quick to acknowledge that it would have been very unlikely that Trueshan would won have won last year’s Gold Cup as Kyprios was imperious in victory, reviving memories of some of the great stayers of yesteryear, such as Sagaro, Ardross and Yeats.
The ground rode fast that day, but Kyprios also looked invincible in France when he won the Prix du Cadran at Longchamp in a quagmire later that year, so, while happy that Trueshan will get his ground, Alan is under no illusions that Kyrpios, who is favourite for Saturday’s race even though he has run just the once this season, finishing second in the Irish St Leger, faces an uphill task.
Not that Alan worries about other people’s horses. Both he, Hollie Doyle and assistant trainer Rob Smith, who has been riding Trueshan on the gallops all season, are just relieved that after two below-par efforts early on this year, the gelding recaptured all his old fire to win the Doncaster Cup and the Prix du Cadran.
Granted, there was no Kyprios around either time, but Trueshan showed us all that he was back, and as far as everyone at Barbury is concerned that is all that mattered.
The Doubting Thomases will claim that Trueshan is too old, but in the last decade Royal Diamond and Sheikhzayedroad were the same age when successful, while in 2012 Rite of Passage was a year older.
Trueshan looked great when I saw him come up the gallops recently, and he is such a fighter who is clearly in the form of his life to defend his crown, so it will be as much a surprise as a disappointment if he is not right there at the finish in Saturday’s curtain-raiser.
I walk into the pressroom these days and, unless Brough Scott is present, I am out on my own the senior scribe, but you are as old as you feel, and not only did Trueshan look in fine fettle at morning exercise, but so did 10-year-old Deyrann de Carjac, who reappears in the Bobby Rention Handicap Chase at Wetherby tomorrow.
Deyrann de Carjac has not won since he captured his novice chase at Huntingdon four years ago, but he showed at Cheltenham’s April meeting that he was not yet ready for his pension book and, remember, he was only caught in the last stride in this race 12 months ago.
You would not rule out Spartan Army at Bath tomorrow either. He won twice over hurdles last winter but never reached the heights that Alan had hoped for. It would certainly be premature writing off Spartan Army as a jumper, but he looked a useful Flat horse with Joseph O’Brien before coming to Barbury, so off a mark of 85 on easy ground he looks interesting.
Simiarly, if Alan confirms Harbour Lake for a first try over fences at Uttoxeter on Friday that might also make me sit up and take notice. Four times a winner over hurdles, Harbour Lake always struck me as one who was crying out for the larger obstacles, and Alan has never been afraid to kick-start a horse’s chasing career in a handicap.
Emitom, who won at Newbury in March, could also possibly make his reappearance at Uttoxeter, as might Irish Chorus, who caught the eye of plenty of professionals when finishing a promising third on her bumper debut at a later Newbury meeting.
All in all, and Alan will doubtless wait and see how much rain does fall before he decides whether to confirm his other Saturday entries, it could be an exciting week-end,