Prospect Wells arrives here on the back of finishing fourth behind Raya Star in the very valuable Ladbroke Handicap Hurdle at Ascot.
He was inexperienced going there, but it is easy to understand why Paul Nicholls ran him when you look at the prizemoney which is on offer for today’s race.
This is a Grade 1, but the winner will only take home £17,000 and that is small beer by Irish standards. Anyway, they didn’t go as fast as one might have expected at Ascot and that did not play to the strengths of my horse.
Captain Conan, who won by 15 lengths at Auteuil in June, has his first run for Nicky Henderson. All I know about him is what I’ve read in the papers. He does seem to have quite a reputation, but I’ve seen these balloons pricked before. Indeed, sometimes horses who come from France with ordinary reputations turn out to be superstars! The horse I am most afraid of is Philip Hobbs’ Colour Squadron. He’s tough and you’d have to be impressed with the way he battled when winning at Newbury.
I’d imagine Colour Squadron will be forcing the pace, while Prospect Wells likes cover. The plan will be to get involved at the last, but whether we will be able to pass Colour Squadron I just don’t know.
Hold Fast starts my day in a handicap chase and he’s definitely not my banker of the weekend. He was fourth to Venetia Williams’ Rileyev at Newbury, when Barry Geraghty rode, after I got a fall earlier on.
That was his first run for Paul and it is hard enough to know exactly where he fits into the scheme of things. I’m hoping he’ll go close, but is well exposed.
I had a choice between the veteran, Neptune Collonges, and The Knoxs in a handicap chase and went with the former. I realise he has plenty to do off top weight, but has won three Grade 1’s and showed a bit of his old sparkle when fourth to The Minack at Ascot.
You could argue The Knoxs is on a better mark, but he does have a worrying tendency to take liberties at his fences.
I finish on an interesting horse called Attaglance for Malcolm Jefferson in a handicap hurdle. To me he’s interesting because I have never previously ridden for Malcolm. Indeed, I have never spoken to the man, although I do know him to see. Yesterday morning he rang my agent, and sister, Jennifer, and requested I do the honours.
I once drove past Malcolm’s base, near Thirsk, after attending Jamie Spencer’s wedding. All I’ll say is that it is a long way from there to Sandown, so I’m thinking he must be giving this lad a fair chance.
At Naas tomorrow, Willie Mullins has decided not run to Boston Bob in the Slaney Novice Hurdle and I am without a ride as a result.
I’m assuming Willie’s thinking is that it is only three weeks since Boston Bob won at Navan and had a hard enough race that day to beat Mount Benbulben.
Mikael D’Haguenet actually won both of those contests, but there was four week gap then between Navan and Naas.
Lambro does duty for Willie in the novice chase and has Peter Casey’s Flemenstar to beat. I like Flemenstar and he was very impressive when winning by a street at Navan.
But I feel that was a weak enough heat and he was well put in his place by Bog Warrior, also at Navan, prior to that.
When schooling horses back in October, we certainly felt Lambro was a three-miler, but he has been showing plenty of speed at home.
He won a three-mile maiden hurdle on this track, started off over fences here and Willie is a great believer in horses for courses.
Flemenstar will, of course, take pegging back, but don’t be surprised if we manage to reel him in somewhere up that punishing Naas straight.
My only other ride is aboard Hats And Heels in a 20-runner maiden hurdle and she has a great chance, having won a bumper at Cork and then running a cracker in a winners’ race at Navan.
This is her first run over jumps and she is rather small. But Hats And Heels does jump well and I’ll be disappointed if we’re not at least fighting it out.
I’ll be surprised if Willie isn’t among the winners at Thurles today. Quel Esprit is a no-brainer in the Grade 3 chase and Mozoltov can win the bumper.
He also has Quaquo de Flotte in a maiden hurdle. I rode Quaquo to take third at Gowran, when I just couldn’t get him down out of the air.
Let me put it this way, he jumped as if the hurdles were on fire and a slicker display now will surely see him competitive.