It’s difficult to appreciate now exactly how much hype there was surrounding Melon leading up to the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in March. He even had his own twitter account. For a horse that had only raced once, winning a perfectly average Maiden Hurdle at Leopardstown, almost all the expectation was based on the stories of how he was performing behind closed doors at Closutton.
What the script writers hadn’t factored in was the bad boy of racing Labaik, for whom the biggest question was whether he would refuse to run again, denying Melon victory. Not to worry the experts said, Labaik was a freak, and all would come good at Punchestown. He came second again, with Labaik finishing last by 99 lengths, having eventually agreed to start.
Some form of redemption came at Down Royal yesterday when he won the Grade 2 WKD Hurdle, having been sent off 2/5 favourite in a field of six. The main rivals were Willie Mullins’ other entry, Coquin Mans, and Gordon Elliott’s Mick Jazz. Approaching the last two, the smart money was probably on Coquin Mans, although Melon quickly improved when it mattered. At the final hurdle both made mistakes, with Melon taking it in a particularly awkward fashion , but finishing comfortably by over 4 lengths.
Melon is currently 14/1 for next year’s Champion Hurdle and less than 20/1 for the Arkle. Let the hype begin again.