He was beaten at Gowran Park and there was no excuse for him, but he jumps well, and has improved a little for the run. However, he might be vulnerable to a classy newcomer, and I’m sure there’ll be a couple in it.
Our Sox, which I ride for Tony Martin in the following race, won a bumper in Down Royal in August, but looks up against it, with Champion Bumper winner Silver Concorde the one to beat.
I’m on Ballycasey in the Dial-A-Bet Chase. Last year we tried him up in trip, this year we’re trying him down in trip. He won a novice chase over this distance when beating Mount Colah and Ned Buntline, so he’s not slow, is a good jumper, and I think will run a huge race.
I have plenty of respect for Uxizandre. He was a good winner at Cheltenham, last month, sets a good level of form, and is definitely the one to beat.
I ride Nichols Canyon in the Future Champions Novice Hurdle. He was a good winner of the Royal Bond at Fairyhouse last time. I deserted him that day, but he’s done nothing wrong and I’m looking forward to getting back on board.
He’s two from two over hurdles and is improving, but, having said that, Willie’s other runner, McKinley, is a hugely improved horse as well and should run a good race.
Busted Tycoon, which I ride in the handicap hurdle, won her last six (four over hurdles) but hasn’t been seen since the 2013 Galway Festival. Tony’s happy with her, thinks she’s in good form, but the long lay-off is a worry.
I won last year’s Paddy Power Chase on Rockyaboya and will be hoping to follow up on Dogora. He ran well for a long way in the Troytown but it was his first run of the season and he just got tired. He’s improved for that run but he’ll have to have because this is every bit as competitive as you’d expect for a €190,000 handicap chase.
I know dad thinks Foxrock has a good chance, but he’s carrying top weight, and the one I think has a good each-way chance is The Westerner Boy.
Willie runs Nickname Exit in the bumper. Tough horse, keeps finding, and two and a half miles will suit. He’s not a flashy horse at home, keeps plenty for himself, but I think there’ll be a lot of improvement on the track.
In Limerick, we run The Paparazzi Kid in the Tim Duggan Memorial Handicap Chase. He was disappointing in Newbury, but I don’t think the ground was soft enough. He won at this festival last Christmas, will love the heavy ground, and will run a hell of a lot better than at Newbury.
Tomorrow, at Leopardstown, I start off on Okotoks for Tony Martin. He was beaten a nose by Blair Perrone at Perth back in May so if that one goes well in today’s second race, it’ll be a good pointer to his chances. He lacks experience over hurdles but Tony thinks he has a chance.
Dara Tango, which I ride in the three-mile handicap hurdle, ran a blinder behind a well handicapped horse, Lite Duties, over two and a half miles at Navan a fortnight ago. The longer trip will suit but he gave everything the last day and it’s plenty quick enough to be pulling him back out.
Willie runs Un Atout in the Beginners’ Chase. He was bitterly disappointing when I rode him at Punchestown but he made a terrible mistake at the last fence with a circuit to run. He’s come on considerably for the run, will run a lot better but will also have to jump a lot better.
Willie runs Briar Hill, Zaidpour and Glens Melody in the Christmas Hurdle, and I went for the fit one. Briar Hill hasn’t run since Cheltenham and Glens Melody since France, in May, so I chose Zaidpour. Maybe I’m wrong, as they’re all in good form, but I won this on him last year and think he’ll go well again in what looks a hot race.
I haven’t ridden Shemshal in a long time, and the Christmas Novice Handicap Hurdle doesn’t look the strongest race in the world, but he may need to step up on what he’s shown over hurdles. If he could translate his bumper form, it would give him a good chance.
The big race of the weekend is the Lexus Chase and I ride Boston Bob. He was second behind Don Cossack at Leopardstown last time but met interference at the third fence and was never travelling afterwards. I think he’s improved for the run but he’ll have to have as this is as good a renewal as there has been for years, and the winner will be a worthy winner.
It suits a strong-staying, Gold Cup-type horse at this time of the year. I’m hoping Boston Bob can win it but it’s really tough and would almost prefer to pick the winner of the Paddy Power Handicap Chase.
Willie has two in the bumper, but Up For Review, which Patrick rides, is a horse I really like. Arbor Run also works well, but I think Up For Review will take beating.
In Limerick tomorrow, Upsie runs in a novice chase. She’s been in really good form lately, and her schooling has been very good. Max Dynamite will have to improve to win the four-year-olds’ hurdle, because Kitten Rock has a very high rating, but he did nothing wrong at Thurles and it’s worth having a go with him.