Bob the one to beat in Durkan Memorial

I’m in Navan for four rides this afternoon, and start off on Hold The Line for Pat Shanahan in the opening maiden hurdle.

Willie has Argentino in the race but he’s owned by Gigginstown and so Bryan Cooper is on board. He was bought to try his hand as a juvenile hurdler, but that didn’t work out for him and he missed the second half of last year.

He has worked well and schooled well recently, but I’d be hoping my mount could translate his smart flat form to hurdling, and could run a big race.

Un Beau Roman, which I ride in the second race, is what he is - his form is there for all to see. He's a front runner, who likes to get on with things, and is usually a sound jumper.

I always had him down as a good ground horse. There hasn't been a whole lot of rain in the past fortnight, but the frost is making the ground quite dead.

Willie's other runner in the race, Florishwells D'ete, has only 9-10 to carry and, even though she's having her first run over fences, I think it's going to be hard to give all that weight to her and to to the other four-year-old in the field, Clarcam.

I'm on Queens Wild, for Eddie Harty, in the mares’ maiden hurdle. When Captain Carol ran at Clonmel and Willie had nothing in the race, I looked it up and down and thought there were only three or four you could give a chance to - and Queens Wild was one of them.

I suppose Willie Austin's mare, Emcon, who won the bumper Queens Wild was third in on her only start, might be the one to beat but it could come down to which one jumps best.

Blood Cotil, in the beginners' chase, is definitely my best ride this afternoon.

I think two and a half miles will really suit him. He had a good run behind Gilgamboa at Navan on his last start, has improved for the run, and I think will be hard to beat.

Willie runs Turcagua in the bumper. He was beaten favourite in a sales bumper at Fairyhouse in the springtime - he qualified for the race and so he ran - but I think you'll see a much different horse today and he'll take beating.

Tomorrow at Punchestown I start off on Celtic Abbey. I probably made a little bit too much use of him the last day, in a handicap hurdle, but he'll have to put in a career-best effort, by a long way, if he’s to win this.

That said, I think he'll beat more horses than will beat him. It's just a pity there aren't eight runners as he might have been a decent each-way bet.

On ratings he has a bit to find, and Rock The World looks the one we all have to beat.

Totally Dominant is making his hurdling debut in the second race, and is working well at home.

If you look back to his Punchestown Festival bumper run (close third behind Fletchers Flyer and Sub Lieutenant) he has a good chance.

I think the ground was way too fast for him when he was beaten on the flat at Wexford back in August, and he should be much more at home with an ease.

He'll love the two and a half miles, has won at this track, and has a great chance.

There are six runners in the Grade 1 John Durkan Memorial and, to me, only three count: Boston Bob, Don Cossack and you must have respect for the Gold Cup winner, Lord Windermere, who improved with every run last season.

Don Cossack looks a better horse this year than last.

He was entitled to win at Punchestown, when he beat Alderwood, and he definitely handled the ground better than Wonderful Charm when winning at Down Royal, over two and a half miles. You’d have to love the way he quickened all the way down the straight that day.

But, Boston Bob is a Grade 1 winner at two and a half miles, and won at Aintree last year.

I think he has improved a hell of a lot for his run in the North (JNwine.com Champion Chase) last month, he’s in really good form, and has a great chance.

Don Cossack has an edge in terms of winning form this season but has a bit to find with Boston Bob on official ratings, and he will have to bring his A-game to beat us.

Bryan Cooper is suspended and so I’m on Un Atout in the beginners’ chase.

He hasn’t run in a long, long time, but seems in really good form.

Mala Beach has had a run over fences under his belt, having finished runner-up to The Tullow Tank at Fairyhouse last month, but we’re really happy with Un Atout.

We’ve always thought he was a good horse, and he doesn’t seem to be showing any ill-effects of the injury which forced him to miss the whole of last season.

He seems to have retained all his ability, and hopefully fences will bring out a bit of improvement in him.

I won’t get too many chances to ride him, so I’m really looking forward to this opportunity.

Willie runs Livelovelaugh in the bumper. He doesn’t have the size or presence of Turcagua, but he’s going well at home and must have a chance.

Willie runs Black Hercules in the Grade 3 three-mile novice hurdle tomorrow at Cork and it looks a very good race.

Gigginstown’s two runners, No More Heroes and Alpha Des Obeaux, are both big players.

They were very impressive on their last starts, but I like Black Hercules a lot and having them in the race should at least make him a reasonable price. He’s an out-and-out stayer, should relish the trip and if the John Durkan wasn’t a Grade 1, I’d probably be in Cork.

I think Willie faced Paul (Townend) with a tricky enough call in the Hilly Way Chase. Twinlight bolted-in in this race last year but Felix Yonger is also going well at the moment and I don’t think there’ll be an awful lot between them. They both have great chances.

Vroum Vroum Mag will be very hard to beat in the Grade 3 Mares’ Chase but will be priced accordingly.

She’s a gorgeous mare, who jumped brilliantly when winning at Wexford recently, and I don’t think the drop back in trip will inconvenience her.

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