Wicklow Brave up for the fight

The first of two great days of racing at Fairyhouse takes place today and, while Willie has a number of runners at the track, I’ll be at Newcastle to ride Wicklow Brave in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle.

Wicklow Brave up for the fight

It’s a very competitive race, but, with Annie Power getting a knock, we thought the obvious thing to do was for Arctic Fire to go to Fairyhouse and to supplement Wicklow Brave for this.

He had a very good run at Punchestown, behind Nichols Canyon and Faugheen, and, on the back of that, is the highest rated horse in today’s race.

There are others of real potential in the race and he will need to produce a career-best effort to win, but he seems to be in great form, has kept on improving all the year and it’d be great if he could win a Grade 1.

Irving and Top Notch are obvious dangers, but they went toe to toe at Haydock just eight days ago.

Neither Paul Nicholls nor Nicky Henderson trains next door to Haydock, and certainly nowhere near Newcastle and the horses are being pulled out again just seven days after their battle at Haydock. Reading into that, we thought it worthwhile to take our chance.

My only other ride of the day is for Tony Dobbin, in the novices’ hurdle.

Anyone who can read form knows as much about the horse, Jonniesofa, as I do, but he won well last week, Tony likes him and think he has a chance today, and that’ll do me.

Willie runs Urano in the Hennessy, at Newbury, and I wouldn’t put anyone off having an each-way bet on him at a big price.

Not too many people would have him down as an obvious Hennessy winner, but it’s a very competitive race, and a lot of the runners will be very tired by the time they turn for home.

Although Bobs Worth looks very well treated and likely to take beating, Urano is as fit as a flea, will keep going and, with four places, has realistic claims of reaching the frame.

In the three-mile hurdle on the same card I’m not sure why people seem so keen to take on Cole Harden.

He was a good winner of the World Hurdle, is easily forgiven his Aintree defeat as Cheltenham probably left its mark, and this could be a chance for punters to get a price about him.

Back at Fairyhouse, Willie runs Alvisio Ville in the beginners’ chase, and he’s a horse we always thought an awful lot of.

He works well, jumps well, and made an impressive debut over hurdles last term.

He finished third behind Nichols Canyon on his second start and, in hindsight, probably wasn’t ready to run into one of that caliber.

Forget his Cheltenham run, behind Douvan, we still think a hell of a lot of him. It’s a competitive race, with the likes of Marinero and Bonny Kate in opposition, but we’re very keen on his chances today.

Pylonthepressure runs in the first division of the maiden hurdle, and he’s another I like.

He was a decent bumper horse last season, and I rode him during the week, and he went well.

His schooling has been quite good, and we’re happy with him. Tombstone is a good horse, but I like Pylonthepressure and he’s worth taking a chance on.

We’ve been doing well in maiden hurdles of late and, hopefully, can take the second division with Nambour.

He’s a fine big horse, won his point and bumper, and the form of the latter looks rock-solid. Himself and Pylonthepressure are working as well as each other, and hopefully can take both divisions.

The weights have gone up quite a bit in the two-mile handicap hurdle, but Rupert Lamb has each-way claims.

I was on him last time, at Punchestown, and he made a mistake at the wrong time, in what was a slowly run race.

But, it was his first run for a while, he ran on nicely to finish seventh, and can leave that form behind.

That said, Cliff House and After Rain both look well-handicapped, and may be the ones to beat.

New Kid In Town, who runs in the novice hurdle, was quite keen at Clonmel so I dropped him in, and we got caught in the wrong place, detached from the front group.

The winner, Prince Of Scars, was up with the pace all the way, and was pulled out again to win at Navan. New Kid In Town finished fourth and ran better than his placing suggests, but, that said, I think De Name Escapes Me is favourably treated off 123 and could be the one to beat.

While we have been doing well in maiden hurdles, we haven’t been as lucky in bumpers, but hopefully Tarare can help set that right today.

He’s a gorgeous, big horse, who is a half-brother to Tarla. We’ve had him a long time, and he’s had his issues, but he goes well, and a good run is expected.

I’m in Fairyhouse tomorrow, where I start off with a very good spare ride in the juvenile hurdle. With Bryan Cooper riding Rocket Punch for Gigginstown, I’m on Missy Tata for Gordon Elliott.

The three-year-olds are often hard to get a handle on - until January, at least - but, of the ones I’ve seen, Missy Tata caught my eye, winning at Down Royal, and I’m delighted to be riding her.

I had the choice between Long Dog and Bachasson in the Royal Bond and the only reason I’ve gone for Long Dog is because I think he’ll handle testing conditions better.

For horses that won the first race on the Monday and Tuesday of Galway, it’s hard to believe that at this stage of the season you’d still be scratching your head as to which one to ride in a Grade 1.

The handicapper says I’ve made the wrong decision as he has Bachasson rated 3lbs higher and he’s getting 3lbs off Long Dog, but the weather forecast is all that swayed me.

They’ve run at roughly the same time all season, have been winning with similar ease, and improving all the time.

I don’t know how you split them. I asked some of the lads in the yard and they were split 50:50.

It really is that difficult, and Long Dog is just my opinion - anyone who fancies Bachasson, I wouldn’t like to put you off.

There was no such dilemma in the Hatton’s Grace as Arctic Fire has upwards of 19lbs in hand of his rivals.

Willie also runs Clondaw Court. He’s something of an unknown, but needs a serious career-best effort.

Alpha Des Obeaux may be the one to give Arctic Fire most to think about.

I know Mouse Morris has always held him in the highest of regard, and it must be significant connections have chosen to run in this rather than in one of the novice chases he was entered in.

He must be working really well and could be the main threat.

The trip is no problem to Arctic Fire as he won over two and a half at Navan a couple of weeks ago, and looked like beating Jezki when falling at the last in the Aintree Hurdle, in April.

He is the class horse, and the one they have to beat.

As was the case with me trying to split Long Dog and Bachasson, Bryan Cooper probably had similar issues choosing between No More Heroes and Outlander in the Drinmore.

On hurdle ratings he probably had to go with No More Heroes, who was very impressive on his chasing debut at Punchestown.

But, Outlander was also very good on his first start over fences, beating Free Expression, who also runs here. There isn’t a lot between them on that form.

In what looks a very competitive race, I’ll be hoping for the best, but No More Heroes is the one we have to beat.

Willie runs Lucky Pass in the bumper and, to be honest, I don’t know much about him except that he works well and Patrick and Willie had a number to chose from and went for him.

Willie runs Gitane Du Berlais in the mares’ listed race at Carlisle tomorrow.

Vroum Vroum Mag and Pepite Rose were amongst the entries and would have been obvious players, but they don’t run and so Gitane should take beating.

On ratings she has a lot in hand of her rivals, should strip fitter than for her recent return over hurdles, and will be hard to beat.

Exciting talent Jack is a credit to himself and his family

Last Sunday, at Navan, sixteen-year-old Jack Kennedy stole the show, the young rider from Kerry riding a terrific treble.

When you put it into context, most boys and girls his age were receiving their Junior Cert results just a month ago.

He is an exciting talent, very mature, and a well-mannered young man. With luck - and all national hunt jockeys need luck - he could be anything.

The way he conducts himself in the weigh-room and on the track he’s a credit to himself and to his family. He should be a role model for any teenager.

I’m off on my travels to Newcastle to ride in the Grade 1 Fighting Fifth Hurdle this afternoon, and the last time I rode at the track was in this race, aboard Native Darrig, 18 years ago. Back then it was just a handicap, and Jack Kennedy was just a twinkle in someone’s eye.

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