A busy end to a great four days at Leopardstown and Limerick, and I’m in the Dublin venue for three rides, the highlight of which is Melon in the Grade 1 Ryanair Hurdle, writes Ruby Walsh.
I suppose his run in last season’s Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham is the best piece of form on offer, and he is rated 9lb above Sharjah and those are the reasons I’ve gone with him, despite Sharjah having the advantage of race fitness.
We’re happy with Melon and really looking forward to getting him on the track again. He doesn’t have to improve much to be a force to be reckoned with in all the top two-mile hurdles this season and I hope he can make a winning return.
But this is a brilliant race. You have him, Sharjah, Samcro and Supasundae: what more could you want in a hurdle race?
I think we’ll see a different Samcro today than we did in the Fighting Fifth. There was no stage of that race that I thought he was going to win. He looked lacklustre, flat, certainly not himself, and I expect a different horse to turn up today. If that is the case, he will be hard to beat.
All that said, the one I’m ignoring somewhat is Supasundae – and I really shouldn’t. Last season he improved a lot from his run in the Hatton’s Grace and ended up winning two good two-mile races, and I’d expect him to make a big step forward again. He’s a very tough horse, stays really well and is a live contender.
I start on Castlebawn West in the second race, a maiden hurdle. He ran well enough when second at Clonmel on his hurdling debut. You couldn’t say the winner, Western Honour, franked the form, but there’s nothing we can do about that and we were trying to concede eight pounds to the winner that day.
My horse will improve for having that run under his belt, he will handle the ground but it’s a big step up from getting beaten at Clonmel to win at Leopardstown so I’m just hoping for a good run from him.
We have three in the Grade 3 mares’ hurdle and I’ve gone with Limini over Good Thyne Tara and Elimay. On ratings she’s the best of the three and she looks well in as, with the conditions of the race favouring her so much, she is getting weight from horses which are rated lower than her.
She won on the flat at this track during the summer, she’s in very good form and I see no reason why she won’t go very well. She should take a bit of beating.
Good Thyne Tara is a very consistent mare. She was no match for Stormy Ireland last time, but she’s in good order and always runs a decent race.
Possibly the biggest danger to Limini is our other horse, Elimay. It’s her first run for us, having come over from France. I think her form there equates to something around about a mark of 143-145 over here, and if that’s correct it gives her a good shout. She’s only a small filly but she jumps well and will handle the ground.
We run Mt Leinster in the bumper. We’re fitting him with a hood today as he ran way too free at Punchestown and gave himself no chance. Hopefully he will settle better today and show his true colours.
Paul goes to Limerick for a good book of rides, and his first mount, Voix Des Tiep in the maiden hurdle, is in great order and will be hard to beat. We also run Small Farm, who was runner-up in a bumper at this track last season. He will improve for the run and will probably be seen to better effect over a longer trip.
Pravalaguna runs in the mares’ beginners’ chase and she’s also in very good form. She has chasing experience, will love the slow ground, and should run a big race.
The feature race is the Grade 2 novice hurdle and we run two: Dorrells Pierji and Pleasure Dome.
Dorrells Pierji is improving the whole time and the step up to three miles should see him improve again. We expect a big run from him and I think he could be a dark horse for the Albert Bartlett at the Cheltenham Festival.
Pleasure Dome faded badly the last day and that’s not like her, so hopefully she will finish out her race today.
Our final runner of the two Christmas festivals is Castle North, who runs in the bumper. He is a big staying type and hopefully he’ll run well.