Previews05 February 2023

'He's special' - Facile Vega goes on trial for Supreme against High Definition

Champagne Fever, Vautour, Klassical Dream and Appreciate It have all won this en route to Supreme success in the last decade, while Sir Gerhard and Samcro went on to land the Ballymore. This is, unquestionably, the most informative trial for the novice hurdles at the Cheltenham Festival.

Facile Vega is odds-on here and also for the Supreme, and you can understand why given he is six from six in his career and backed up his wide-margin maiden hurdle win at Fairyhouse with a Grade 1 success over this course and distance at Christmas.

That emphatic four-length victory over Il Etait Temps earned him an RPR of 152, which is 14lb more than main rival High Definition got for winning a maiden hurdle at the same meeting.

That said, High Definition is one of the classiest Flat performers to be sent jumping in recent years. He was ante-post favourite for the 2021 Derby at one stage and rode to a rating as high as 119.

You could certainly pick holes in his jumping on the way to winning at Christmas, when he was out to his right on occasion, but he pulled right away from the useful Jetara and the further he went the better he looked. He is dangerous, especially with Joseph O'Brien expecting an improved display of jumping.

The form of that maiden hurdle win has worked out fine too as Jetara pushed talented mare Ashroe Diamond all the way to the line in the Solerina Mares Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse last weekend and Diverge, who was beaten 20 lengths into sixth, won a Punchestown maiden hurdle by 23 lengths this week.

Inthepocket is unbeaten. He won the Navan Novice Hurdle, which was actually run at Naas, and the runner-up won next time, while the third was runner-up in the opening Grade 1 race on Saturday. Three Card Brag and Absolute Notions are good horses and he beat them both.

Irish Point is rock solid. Already second in two Grade 1s this term, he could be the one to pick up the pieces if Facile Vega or High Definition fail to live up to expectations.

Townend has respect for rivals but reckons Vega has it all

There are nothing but positives to report about Facile Vega, according to Paul Townend, who describes the unbeaten Champion Bumper winner as "special".

Townend has been on board for both victories over hurdles and, while he has deep respect for High Definition, Dark Raven and Il Etait Temps, he is confident of adding another Grade 1 to his collection.

Facile Vega: set for high-profile clash with High Definition
Facile Vega and Paul Townend take the Grade1 Future Champions Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown over ChristmasCredit: Patrick McCann (

Townend said: "What's left to say about Facile Vega? He's undefeated. He's such a good horse. He takes on High Definition, who won a very good maiden over Christmas. We've had two runs, and he’s only had the one over hurdles, but the rating he has on the Flat warrants a lot of respect."

Writing in his Ladbrokes blog, he added: "Il Etait Temps was second to Facile Vega over Christmas and reopposes. He's a good horse in his own right. Dark Raven also won over Christmas and I think there are plenty of unexposed horses in here. However, Facile Vega is special and the way Willie talks about him is enough. All positives to report about him."

What they say

Joseph O'Brien, trainer of High Definition
He's been training well and has schooled well since he won his maiden hurdle over Christmas. It's a big step up in class but he's in very good form and we're hoping for a good run.

Rachael Blackmore, rider of Inthepocket
He's stepping up into a Grade 1 after winning a Grade 2. It wasn’t my best day in the saddle the last time on him but thankfully he held on. Facile Vega sets a high standard but Inthepocket is a lovely horse and I’m looking forward to riding him again.

Gordon Elliott, trainer of Irish Point
He's done very little wrong this season. He ran crackers in the Royal Bond and Lawlor's of Naas and this was the logical place to come next. He's never let us down and, while it's a very hot race, I'm hoping he'll be in the thick of things again.

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