I was hoping I’d be heading to Heathrow and on to Ascot this morning but I’m not as Un De Sceaux is still in Closutton, says Ruby Walsh.
They had no rain over there and we just felt the ground was too quick for Un De Sceaux to take on Altior, even if there was the carrot of going for a historic fourth win in the Clarence House Chase. It’s disappointing but it seems to be a common thread right now.
It looks to be straightforward for Altior. He was brilliant at Christmas, he was good in the Tingle Creek and it will be an easy enough touch for him. You’ll learn as much as you did the other week from watching Laurina but that’s just the way it is at the minute.
So instead, the morning will be all about galloping the Dublin Racing Festival contingent for me. I’ve no ride and Willie has just one runner today, in the two-and-half-mile maiden hurdle.
Face The Facts has improved since his run in Naas when he was second but he probably has to beat Diol Ker. Noel Meade’s horse looked unlucky in Leopardstown over Christmas. It looked like he was going to win when he overjumped the last and stumbled. He could be hard to beat.
You look across the water at what else is on and Charles Byrnes has an interesting runner in the Grade Three handicap hurdle that Robbie Power rides in Ascot. Thosedaysaregone won last week in Wetherby and pulls up again quickly. That will probably be hard to beat.
The Champion Hurdle Trial in Haydock looks to be a fairly ordinary contest. I don’t know if the result will bear any resemblance to what’s going to happen in the Champion Hurdle. There are a pile of horses rated in the mid-150s so one of them will have to improve the guts of 10lbs to get involved in Cheltenham. Pingshou might give a good account of himself on this occasion.
Sunday is Thurles’s feature card, with two Grade Twos. I hope they get a big crowd. Moving to Sunday probably will enhance their gate but will it enhance the exposure for the race meeting? I’m not certain.
I think a midweek slot when you’ve races like Thurles have, can garner more attention when they’re not in competition with other sports. This weekend, you’re competing with the final round of rugby’s Champions Cup for coverage. I’m not sure that’s a great move but crowd-wise, maybe it will benefit and it’s probably a catch 22 situation.
Again, because of the ground, you don’t have Sizing John, which you could have had but the Kinloch Brae Chase is very competitive. Tout Est Permis looks the improving horse. Total Recall, who Paul rides, ran a blinder in Tramore to be second over 2m 6f to Al Boum Photo. Invitation Only, who I ride, was only third.
The drop back down of two furlongs might suit Invitation Only more than Total Recall – I hope I’m right on that but Tout Est Permis is the horse to beat. I was very impressed by him in the Troytown. He is making the step up from handicap to graded company but he’s a young horse who could make that transition.
I wouldn’t be worried about the fact that it’s half a mile less for Noel Meade’s charge. He won at 2m 6f in Galway. He likes to get on with things, is a strong traveller. I don’t see the trip being an inconvenience and he likes dry ground.
In the mares’ novice chase, I think Camelia De Cotte will be very hard to beat with Paul in the plate. She won in Cork and is an improving mare with plenty of experience. Her former stablemate, Meri Devie looks the nearest opposition.
Patrick’s jumping ship to the Gordon Elliott camp for the bumper and he’ll be getting a bit of stick about that!
Next week, Gowran has the Thyestes Chase. They’re giving the going as yielding, yielding to soft in places. It’s not that far from Willie’s but the land around Closutton isn’t that slow! If the forecast is right, we could get some more rain alright.
The Galmoy Hurdle looks like it could be a cracking race – you might have Presenting Percy – and the Thyestes is always a highlight. This meeting is a very strong fixture within the calendar and an example how a Thursday fixture can work. It always gets a great crowd. It’s a great meeting to attend and I love going there because of the good racing and big crowd. It’s real National Hunt.
I think we’ve a few good runners in the Thyestes. Between Pairofbrowneyes, Polidam and Some Neck, I think Willie could have a few live chances.