AFTER Hewick’s win in the dramatic King George, this column was going to begin with something about the Gold Cup being quite a conundrum this year!

And then.... Galopin Des Champs massacred all before him in the Savills at Leopardstown.

But for a race that stands as the second best staying chase in the National Hunt season, and one run on a flat, fair track with no tricky fences, the King George sure throws up its share of crazy, unpredictable results. And that was not even thinking of Santa Claus nearly taking out Kicking King!

As a Gold Cup trial, although its result has an impact on the market, it is hit and miss.

The great ones win both. Mandarin, Arkle, Captain Christy, Silver Buck, Burrough Hill Lad, Desert Orchid, See More Business, Best Mate, Kicking King, Long Run, Kauto Star.

But then we had Mr Mulligan and Don Cossack falling at Kempton before winning at Cheltenham. Imperial Commander running poorly and See More Business and Looks Like Trouble even more disappointing at Kempton before their triumphs in March.

While Hewick has done wonders, again, it is still hard to see him doing the same at Cheltenham.

The jovial joking Shark has pulled some rabbit out of the hat with the little horse. It’s a rare CV from the bet365 Gold Cup, carrying 11st 7lb to win the Galway Plate, unlucky in the Kerry National, winning the American Grand National, still in fighting in the Gold Cup and now winning the pearl of the winter season in the King George.

Of the King George remainder, Bravemansgame seems to have reached his limit and Shishkin is the only horse from Kempton who stepped up and probably would have won. There is still some forward motion in him.

Leopardstown answered the question – is Gerri Colombe a Don Cossack or a Delta Work. He now looks the latter.

Where will Fastorslow fit in March? The John Durkan was not Galopin Des Champs form. How far below his Gold Cup run was the Punchestown Gold Cup? Less than seven lengths with Bravemansgame. But on Thursday’s performance, Martin Brasil’s horse will have it all to prove again.

The novice chasers provided most of the spice to the Festive season. Il Est Francais was faster at Kempton than Hewick in the King George. Marine Nationale faster at Leopardstown than Dinoblue in the older Grade 1. Fact Or File has tremendous promise and just what more can Gaelic Warrior and Grangeclare West do?

So we end the year with the Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup winners looking outstanding again. And some hugely talented novice chasers to whet the appetite.

The only negative, as pointed out, is that Marine Nationale, Constitution Hill, El Fabiolo, Gaelic Warrior and Galopin Des Champs are now probably as short in the betting as they will be come March. Ignore the previews for a month!

Mullins v Mullins

DESPITE Galopin Des Champs’ glittering performance at Leopardstown, the big talking point on Thursday was the pre-race tactics/instructions from Patrick Mullins to Danny Mullins on what not to do on his stable companion Il Etait Temps. Those with good memories may recall maybe Danny has a bit of previous!

Look back at the 2021 PWC Champion Chase at Gowran where Danny and Royal Rendezvous jumped across Brian Hayes on Easy Game, the latter fell due to the interference.

The pre-race conversation seemed a bit like a boxer saying I’m going to drop my hands in the fifth round for a wee rest, don’t hit me then, and not really appropriate.

Especially when you note Sam Ewing being banned for five days for his ride in the Morgiana on Fils D’oudairies, being found “that he had made a manoeuvre during the race with the apparent intention of advantaging another runner trained by the same trainer.”

There was obviously a big difference in the SPs of the two runners on Thursday but anything can happen in a horse race. Rachael Blackmore gave no quarter to Keith Donoghue at the last in Leopardstown.

Opinions differ on how this should be referred on but you can’t have one rider penalised for ‘team tactics’ and another revealing of such discussions beforehand and a stable companion rider told what not to do.

Christmas takeaways

THE final note is to remember that last year’s Leopardstown Grade 1 winners, Saint Roi, Facile Vega, Blue Lord, Conflated, Home By The Lee and State Man all fell short at Cheltenham where the only winners from the Christmas meeting were Lossiemouth and Gaillard Du Mesnil. Odds-on winners Dysart Dynamo and Fact To File were also beaten at Cheltenham. There are a lot of horses to appear from the Mullins yard yet.

Hold the Hewick praise

IT’S not to take anything away from Gavin Sheehan in winning the King George on Hewick but some of the praise in hailing it a brilliant ride is over the top. He simply did what he was told,. He had no choices to make in the race, only to keep going and hope what he was told by the trainer would come to play. The wins on Datsalrightgino and Fugitif required much more thought and skill from the saddle.