RUBY WALSH: Upazo can deliver
By Ruby Walsh
It’s looking good for Sandown today, after the meeting passed a second inspection yesterday afternoon.
An early morning inspection saw the four hurdles races on the card abandoned, but Sandown had contingency plans in place and were able to slot in three extra chases to make up a six-race all-chase programme.
I originally had a couple of rides lined up for Paul Nicholls over flights and will now travel for just two bits of action, on Toubab and Keppols Hill.
I’m still delighted to be making the journey, however, because it is far better to be racing than to be sitting around doing nothing.
What Sandown has done is to make the best of a bad situation and have to be commended for that. Much of Britain and Ireland is flooded right now and it is terrific that racing is taking place.
Before getting into the weekend action, though, I want to first to have a glance back at Leopardstown last Sunday. I was seriously pleased with Hurricane Fly and thought he put up a great performance, in terrible conditions.
Look, I know you can argue he only did what was to be expected, but his jumping was quick and accurate and he gave me a great feel throughout.
I’ve seen him at Willie’s this week and he seems to have come of out of the race in fine shape. He looks really well and just seems in right form at the moment.
I was blown away — no pun intended — by Pont Alexandre in the novice hurdle. To make all in the manner he did was quite superb.
His race was run in a virtual hurricane, with rain, sleet and snow to contend with as well. But he made light of it all and I loved the way he quickened off the last bend.
To me he was going faster in the straight, when he hit the better ground, than at any stage of the race. This is a good horse.
My two at Sandown are in handicaps and both have reasonable chances. Toubab, admittedly, has his share of weight off 11-11.
He has to leave behind a disappointing effort at Ascot last time, for Daryl Jacob, to take a hand now and I think will at least achieve that much.
I gather he’s in good form at home, is a fine jumper and does travel beautifully through his races. The problem with this horse, of course, is that he doesn’t find much off the bridle, so I’ll be trying to keep him on it as long as possible.
In contrast to Toubab, Keppols Hill has a nice weight, 10-5, and I’ll be disappointed should he, at worst, not hit the bar.
He would have won at Exeter, but for falling at the last, and then made no mistake in a beginners chase at Chepstow subsequently.
Running in a handicap will suit, can be a bit idle, and he will love the ground and the trip. I have to be optimistic.
I have a strong enough book of rides at Punchestown tomorrow and hope to get off to a flier in the first, a maiden hurdle, on Upazo.
I have to say when he got beaten by Jennies Jewel at Naas that his dispaly disappointed me, at least a little. But then Jennies Jewel went to Leopardstown last Sunday to chase home Glens Melody in a Listed event and put things in perspective.
As well as the form getting a decent boost, we also have to factor in the fact Upazo never settled at Naas. He never spat it out and then paid the price, having nothing left when Jennies Jewel threw down her challenge from the last.
My first priority then will be to get him to settle, whether that will be in front or elsewhere I don’t know, but if we can manage that then I think he’ll deliver.
I’m on Mozoltov, against Don Cossack, in the Grade 2 hurdle and this has the makings of a fascinating tussle. Don Cossack was below par behind Pont Alexandre at Navan and connections obviously think he is a far better horse than that. Indeed, all of his previous efforts would indicate such is the case.
Mozoltov is smart, winning two bumpers and then easily landing a modest maiden hurdle first time out this season at Gowran Park.
This is an entirely different test, but I like Mozoltov and we are very happy with him at home. I’m not saying we are sure to beat an on-song Don Cossack, but will be disappointed all the same should he not jump the last bang in contention.
I’m on Royal Reveille for my father in the three-mile handicap hurdle, but he’s been off a long time and dad’s other runner, Colbert Station, is a far more likely winner, with greedy A.P coming across to ride him.
Blazing Tempo takes on Sizing Europe in a Grade 2 over fences, but the best we can surely hope for is second and some more black type for the mare.
Lambro has top weight in a two-mile handicap chase, but I’m sweet on his prospects. He hasn’t run since winning at Punchestown in May, but is going particularly well at home and could actually be ahead of the handicapper.
Vesper Bell, with just two outings over fences under his belt, is saddled with top weight in the National Trial and has to concede lumps of weight all round.
He is a wonderful jumper and will stay four and a half miles, but whether a horse so inexperienced can prove equal to such a task remains to be seen.
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