Mouchoir enhanced Champion claims by blowing away rivals
He may have been eased in the Gold Cup betting following his narrow defeat by the gallant Many Clouds (174) in Saturday's Grade 2 Cotswold Chase, but Thistlecrack still looks the one to beat on March 17.
A series of minor errors didn't help his cause, but an RPR of 174 is not that far shy of his King George winning mark of 178 and, granted decent ground, there is no reason to think he can't better that figure in March. He certainly seemed to get up the hill well enough and given that Saturday's race was reportedly run over 172 yards further than advertised and in a winning time over six seconds slower than last year's Gold Cup, it's hard to see him failing for want of stamina.
Earlier in the week, Thyestes Chase winner Champagne West (170) had put himself on the fringes of the Gold Cup market and stablemate Petit Mouchoir (165+) continued the yard's good form by landing Sunday's Irish Champion Hurdle.
His rating still leaves him below the level of a typical winner of the Champion Hurdle but, with the exception of Faugheen (177), there is a lack of real quality in the division.
Runner-up Footpad (162+) posted a big career best and, like Naas winner Sutton Place (161+), would look very well treated if lining up for Newbury's Betfair Hurdle.
Clarence House Chase winner Un De Sceaux (174) cemented his position at the head of the Ryanair Chase market, but just as interesting was the performance of Uxizandre (168) on his first run since landing that festival race in 2015. On better ground the placings could easily be reversed.
Among the novice Grade 2 winners Wholestone (147) and Constantine Bay (147) ran sound Albert Bartlett Trials, but probably more significant as far as that race is concerned was the rating earned by West Approach (157) behind Unowhatimeanharry (167) in the Cleeve Hurdle. Of the twelve winners of this relatively new race, only 2006 scorer Black Jack Ketchum (159) has won the race with a figure in excess of 157.
Back at Leopardstown the mare Let's Dance (146) confirmed she will be a factor at the festival, although her target race is still not clear. Stablemate Melon (138+) had kicked off the card with a stylish debut success and should be a player in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle.
Pick of the novice chase performances over the weekend was Royal Vacation (155), although his new mark is still a fair way shy of that of an average RSA winner (163). Perhaps of more significance was the huge compliment he paid to Might Bite (165+) who had looked set to beat him by upwards of 15 lengths when crashing out at the last at Kempton on Boxing Day.
LEADING CONTENDERS BY RPR
Cue Card 180
Bristol De Mai 173
Native River 171
Champagne West 170
Road To Riches 169
Valseur Lido 169
Don Poli 168
Smad Place 168
Nichols Canyon 166
Petit Mouchoir 166
My Tent Or Yours 165
The New One 165
Wicklow Brave 163
Apple's Jade 162
Brain Power 162