Perhaps the most piquant aspect to the retirement of three-tine Ladbroke World Hurdle winner Inglis Drever, announced yesterday, is that he should so narrowly have missed the opportunity to measure the pretensions of his obvious heir.
There is no doubting the regal bearing of Punchestowns, whose accession as the new monarch of staying hurdlers could well be hastened at Cheltenham on Saturday.
Thus far, indeed, he has gone about things with rather more panache than Inglis Drever.
But it would be unusual for any horse to dominate this exacting discipline without also disclosing a coarser grain, and Inglis Drever would never have surrendered his crown without an almighty scrap.
As it is, the substance of his achievements can be represented at the Festival in March only by Kasbah Bliss, the French horse who made him work so hard for that unprecedented third World Hurdle success last year.
In the meantime, Inglis Drever will abide in the esteem of all and the affection of many.
He did not go out as he deserved to be remembered, pulled up lame at Newbury in November. He had also been below his best at Aintree in April, only the third time in 21 completed starts over hurdles that he had failed to make the first two. With hindsight, Howard Johnson must wish he had persevered with his original instinct to retire him at the end of last season, when recognisably in his pomp.
Meanwhile, Ulster owned Newbay Prop can step towards the Grand National at Aintree by winning the Thyestes Handicap Chase at Gowran Park today.
Owned by Moira business man Billy Moffett and trained by Tony Martin, Newbay Prop won at Navan in December and earlier in the season had also finished 5th in the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse. Moffett said yesteday: "The plan is to run at Aintree provided all is well at Gowran. Davy Russell rides and we are expecting a good run."