Readers of last year's One Jump Ahead will be aware that Chapeau De Soleil joined Willie Mullins with a lofty reputation having won a point-to-point for Colin Bowe. Purchased privately, the Soldier of Fortune gelding was ante-post favourite for the Cheltenham Festival bumper before making his Rules debut. Runner-up in a bumper at Fairyhouse twelve months ago, he hung away his chance before staying on well at the death behind Better Days Ahead. The five year old wasn't seen again until the Festival (off 101 days) and, given his far from smooth preparation, wasn't disgraced when finishing tenth at Cheltenham under Brian Hayes.
Chapeau De Soleil made his hurdles bow at Clonmel in a two miles three maiden hurdle - an event Mullins has run Castlebawn West (2nd in 2018), Saint Roi (5th in 2019), Capodanno (3rd in 2020) - and passed the test with flying colours in attritional conditions. Making all under Patrick Mullins, the Rich and Susannah Ricci owned runner jumped well (with the exception of two flights, including the second last) and always looked in control. Pulling away in the homestraight, his momentum was checked at the penultimate flight but was soon back on an even keel. His victory was secured with a bold leap at the final obstacles before pulling away to score by nine lengths. His rider feels he will appreciate returning to a left-handed track but there were no signs of him hanging (like he did at Fairyhouse last season) and Graded company will be on the agenda sooner rather than later. A good jumper who stays well, the Ricci's won the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival with Monkfish three years ago and they may have another prime candidate. I texted Rich after the race and he was understandably delighted describing the performance as 'magic.' One assumes he will get an entry in the Grade 1 Lawlor's Novice Hurdle at Naas (7th January).
The weather continues to play havoc with the racing calendar - Exeter and Sedgefield are already abandoned on Friday. Wetherby's meeting on Saturday has also been added to the fixture's casualty list, while Huntingdon are inspecting on Friday morning (7.30am) to see if their Peterborough Chase meeting has any chance of getting the go ahead on Sunday.
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