Alpha Des Obeaux won the Clonmel Oil Chase on Thursday to enhance his claims as a potential Ryanair 2018 contender at the Cheltenham Festival. He seemed to struggle over three miles and further on his past few runs, but the drop back to today’s trip of just over two and a half miles seems to have done the trick.
He stayed on very nicely today and needed every inch of the trip, but it did seem to bring out the best in him and it would surprise me if we saw him over three miles again this season. That would turn his long-term target into the Ryanair Chase, instead of the much higher quality Cheltenham Gold Cup, where he would likely be outstayed and outclassed.
In the Clonmel Grade Two, he got the better of two good yardsticks, which gives the form plenty of credibility. A Toi Phil came second while favourite Balko Des Flos was well back in third. Those are two proven performers at this level and while they wouldn’t head to Cheltenham with much hope in a Championship race, the way Alpha Des Obeaux beat them today suggests he could do.
It will also be interesting to see just how far he can go at this trip, as this is the first time we have seen him over this distance since the start of his novice chase career. The yard clearly thought he was a stayer, but after today they could change their minds and campaign him over shorter.
We will find out their thoughts next time he is entered but do not be surprised to see him back out over around two and a half miles sometime over the Christmas period. That will give us an indication of just how good he is, but at just seven years old there is plenty of optimism that he could find even more to become an out and out Grade One performer.
Looking forward to the Ryanair Chase and it is likely to cut up because horses will aim for either the Gold Cup or Champion Chase. That means yet again we could see a substandard or small field at Cheltenham, so you would not blame trainer Mouse Morris for throwing Alpha Des Obeaux in the race, even without Grade One winning form. The makeup of the Ryanair often means that a few horses line up who are not quite good enough and any improvement over the next few months will mean that Alpha Des Obeaux is likely to be superior.
We are a long way from thinking that Alpha Des Obeaux is a legitimate challenger for the Ryanair Chase but after winning the Clonmel Oil Chase he has climbed the ladder and moved closer. With the drop back in trip appearing to really suit him today, it will be interesting to see where they head next but hopefully it is to another race over the same distance, with the Ryanair Chase in the back of their minds.