Racing: O'Dwyer still counts on winning the War

When you have as many medals pinned to your chest as Conor O'Dwyer, you do not mind losing the odd skirmish so long as the war can still be won. A less experienced jockey might be distraught after being beaten on both his most cherished mounts within 24 hours, but O'Dwyer knows that neither War Of Attrition nor Hardy Eustace was diminished by defeat over the weekend.

True, both bumped into legitimate new challengers, In Compliance and Detroit City each graduating boldly from their promising novice seasons. But a proven aptitude for its very different demands mean that War Of Attrition and Hardy Eustace probably retain superior claims for the Cheltenham Festival in March.

War Of Attrition, such a decisive winner of the Gold Cup, was beaten for the second time in barely a month in the John Durkan Chase at Punchestown yesterday. But while In Compliance was impressive, jumping and galloping with gusto under Barry Geraghty and taking charge of a strong field with three to jump, War Of Attrition offered little cause for anxiety.

So much livelier on good ground, he will have detested conditions - as indeed he did when routed in the same race a year ago.

He also looked as though he will be more comfortable going left-handed, repeatedly swaying across his fences. But he still managed to snarl at In Compliance, confining the margin to two and a half lengths, the pair clear, without enduring an unnecessarily severe race.

Mouse Morris was satisfied enough. "I'm not disappointed," the trainer said. "He doesn't jump as well as he can in that ground, but we knew that beforehand." What could not have been certain was how far In Compliance might sustain his exciting start over fences. Having missed much of last season and then been kept to shorter distances, he arrived as one of the least exposed chasers on the scene.

"He has finally come of age," his trainer, Michael O'Brien, said. "The ground wouldn't have suited War Of Attrition, but our fellow didn't mind it. We will wait a few days and decide if he goes for the King George, but I would say it's unlikely: my inclination is to go for the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown."

He could well meet War Of Attrition again there. In the meantime the Gold Cup sponsors, Totesport, cut In Compliance from 16-1 to 8-1 third favourite, while leaving War Of Attrition on 7-2 and Kauto Star on 9-4. It is 14-1 bar.

As for Hardy Eustace, he lost only a points decision in his showdown with Detroit City in the Boylesports Hurdle at Cheltenham the previous afternoon. Yet Detroit City is somehow as short as 5-2 favourite for the Smurfit Champion Hurdle, whereas Hardy Eustace can be backed at 12-1 - an extraordinary insult both to his previous achievements at the Festival, where he has won three times already, and to his performance in what both camps described as "a messy race" on Saturday.

As it happens, trainer Dessie Hughes did not seem to think much of O'Dwyer's tactics, walking from the tape to ensure that Richard Johnson set the pace on Detroit City. Hardy Eustace permitted his young rival the initiative throughout and Johnson took adv- antage when kicking on three out.

Hardy Eustace followed him easily enough, but the steady early gallop left him with an uphill battle in sticky ground and it was only on the run-in that he finally started to run down the leader. He still had a length to find at the line, but Detroit City - receiving 4lb - was flat out and had pulled himself up long before O'Dwyer managed to ease down.

The general assumption is that Detroit City will be equally well suited by a stronger pace and faster ground in the Champion. Yet as Johnson himself said afterwards: "The great thing about this horse is that he's so straightforward, that there are no secrets about him."

There is no evidence that he could find one extra ounce in different circumstances. In contrast, one of the great hurdling careers of recent years shows an explicit pattern of peaking on spring ground at Cheltenham. It would not be remotely surprising if Hardy Eustace were to beat Detroit City a dozen lengths in March, but the reverse would be astonishing.

Chris McGrath

Nap: Dolans Bay (Ayr 1.20)

NB: The Abbots Habit (Ayr 12.20)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions