High profile horses can polarise opinion massively, particularly in the pseudo-world of social media. Witness the back and forth in the lead up to Cyrname’s run in last weekend’s Charlie Hall Chase. Paul Nicholls kept his own counsel beforehand and was confidently assured in the aftermath.
Which brings me to the latest social media-stirring warhorse – Goshen. Whisper his name quietly in a dusty corner of the Twittersphere, and you soon have to take cover for fear of being caught in the crossfire. And it seems we will get another chance to lob a grenade into that particular battle again this weekend, as Gary Moore’s stable star makes his first hurdle start since that oh-so-unfortunate unseating at the last when well clear in last season’s Triumph Hurdle.
He is unsurprisingly priced up as favourite, but as was the case with his two flat starts recently, he is very opposable in my eyes. It will be a serious test of his ability and inherent class, as he faces a potentially very decent field in Saturday’s Unibet Elite Hurdle at Wincanton at 3.00.
As such, I think there is a knocking each-way bet to be had on Sceau Royal at 9/2 with Coral. Looking at the weather forecast for the week ahead, and it is high pressure dominating and very little, if any, rainfall before Saturday down in the south-west. The ground is currently described as good, good to soft in places, and with no such natural moisture forthcoming it could be pretty fast ground for the weekend. That could surely rate Goshen as a potential doubtful runner to boot.
That said, I would quite strongly fancy Sceau Royal to upset the Goshen applecart anyhow. Given a wind operation over the summer, his win on seasonal reappearance in the Welsh Champion Hurdle at Ffos Las was very impressive, both visually and on the clock.
A smooth travelling, high-quality horse on his day, Sceau Royal has been campaigned over fences almost exclusively of late, and on the occasions when he been faced with a speedy test over 2m on decent ground, he has been good enough to get within two or three lengths of Altior. As good as Goshen has looked, he has some way to go to prove that he has that level of ability.
Back Sceau Royal in the Unibet Elite Hurdle on Saturday with Coral!
Sceau Royal was actually a winner of this race in 2016, when it was run as a handicap, and also a close second in last season’s Kingwell Hurdle, when using it as a prep run for the Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. Clearly he acts very well at Wincanton, he will love the ground and the likely strong pace to aim at courtesy of Goshen and the front-running Brandon Castle.
At 9/2 currently, he looks to be a sure-fire runner, and even if Goshen were to declared, I could see Sceau Royal being much shorter than that price come Saturday. His hurdling technique was smooth at Ffos Las, and seemed to get slightly lower over the smaller obstacles as the race went on last time. So, you’d hope that in having two hurdle runs in succession, that he will only be slicker at Wincanton on Saturday.
I could see the Paul Nicholls-trained Diego Du Charmil being a danger were he to run, but the stable also have Solo entered, and it’s hard to predict running plans currently.