Black Hercules can get chasing career off to good start at Navan

Navan is not where I expected to be this afternoon, but I suppose it was better to find out early in the week at home that Un De Sceaux was a bit flat than when leaving the Railway Fences and wondering why he wasn’t picking up going to the Pond Fence.

Black Hercules can get chasing career off to good start at Navan

It’s disappointing, as I thought Sandown would really have suited his style of running. But it wasn’t meant to be, and now it’s all systems go for Christmas .

I start off on Bello Conti in the maiden hurdle. He was meant to run at Clonmel on Thursday, but the meeting was cancelled.

It might work in his favour as this stiffer track should suit. There’s a massive field but this fellow goes well enough, jumps well and has a chance in an open-looking maiden. He will definitely improve when he steps up in trip.

I’ll be donning the Hurricane Fly colours when Asthuria makes her debut for us in the mares’ maiden hurdle.

I don’t really know an awful lot about her, except she has schooled well and goes okay at home. She doesn’t set the world alight in her work, but is a strong mare, should cope with Navan, and I hope is one of those that is better on the track than she shows at home.

Black Hercules, in the beginners’ chase, is definitely the pick of my three rides this afternoon. He was disappointing in the Albert Bartlett, at Cheltenham, and I don’t know why that was, but he was flawless this time last year, when beating Alpha Des Obeaux in a Grade 3 hurdle at Cork.

He has schooled really well, everything about him screams ‘chaser’, and we’re very happy with him. Two and a half around here on heavy ground should suit him fine, and we’re very hopeful he can get his chasing career off to a good start.

Avenir D’Une Vie is on a recovery mission in the bumper. We thought he was working well enough to win first time, but he disappointed. Patrick thought he needed the run, so hopefully he’ll be straight enough to recoup the losses.

Bryan Cooper heads to Aintree to ride Don Poli and his performance should give us a good line into Djakadam and Valseur Lido’s chances tomorrow, as they’ve been doing the same work all along.

He was very good last year, winning two Grade 1s, and Cheltenham had probably left its mark on him when he disappointed at Punchestown.

His work is always average, but he seems to be really well. It is his first run of the season, and it’s a competitive race, but if he is going to develop into a Gold Cup horse he’ll have to go very close.

That said, like Vautour at Ascot, I’m not expecting him to hose in. If he gets home in front that’ll be enough as there will be loads of improvement to come.

Tomorrow’s meeting at Cork has fallen foul of the weather but it’s great they have been able to reschedule for Sunday week, as there isn’t an awful lot of racing at this time of year. And, it’s a really good card.

That said, it’s getting very close to Leopardstown’s Christmas Festival, especially for the Hilly Way horses, who might have their sights set on the Grade 1 a fortnight later.

I ride Yorkhill in the maiden hurdle at Punchestown. He is another that was supposed to run at Clonmel, where Patrick was due to ride him in an amateur riders’ race.

He won a point to point, and Patrick liked him a lot as a bumper horse. We’ve always thought he has a big future, and are hopeful he can collect.

The John Durkan looks a great race. Clarcam and Gilgamboa were Grade 1 winners as novices, Foxrock was runner-up in a Hennessy, Djakadam ran-up the Gold Cup, Valseur Lido was a dual Grad 1-winning novice, and Hidden Cyclone and Flemenstar make up a cracking renewal.

Djakadam seems to be in good form but you’d imagine two and a half miles might be on the sharp side for him, although he was still travelling well when falling four out in the JLT Chase in 2014.

He raced too keenly with me when second behind Don Cossack at Punchestown, but that is very good form - Don Cossack is the highest rated chaser in training.

This isn’t a prep race, it’s a Grade 1, but two and a half miles is a great distance to be going, with the Lexus just a few weeks away.

Valseur Lido has the speed to win over two and a half miles, as he showed when winning his beginners’ chase here last year, and soft ground will suit him. Bryan Cooper gives him a big chance, so he’s a player too.

Pont Alexandre, who hasn’t been seen since disappointing behind The New One in the Neptune Hurdle at Cheltenham in 2013, returns in the beginners’ chase.

He has had plenty of problems, but has a lot of work done.

I rode him in work on Tuesday and he went really well, but you’d just be hoping he’d be fit enough as there’s nothing like match practice.

He hasn’t been an easy horse to train, and it’s testament to the ability and patience of Willie and David Porter, who looks after him, that he’s here. They’ve done a great job to get him back to the track. Hopefully he can make a winning return.

Seabass, also returning from a long absence, runs in the two-six handicap chase. He was placed in an Aintree National for Dad and Katie, but has had plenty of issues.

It’s a competitive handicap but I think he’ll run well, and hopefully set himself up for something bigger at Christmas.

Willie has Blow By Blow in the bumper. He wasn’t catching my eye at home, but did a very good bit of work last week, and the penny could be dropping.He’s not the fastest in the world, but is resolute, and the tougher conditions the more it will suit.

Willie runs Screaming Rose and Snag List in a mares’ listed bumper at Huntingdon.

They’re useful fillies but, on home work, you’d slightly favour Screaming Rose.

Ruby’s Rant: Setting the programme for the ordinary horse not the way forward

The stewards were busy looking at the beginners’ chase at Fairyhouse last weekend, and the upshot is that there have been all sorts of suggestions about these sorts of races, mainly the running more confined beginners’ chases and fewer open ones.

I’m not in favour of that. I think that from the start of October until the start of February you should have no confined beginners’ chases.

You need to get as many good horses as you can to win beginners’ chases so that you have clashes in the bigger novice chases. It’s pointless confining these races and having the good horses meeting first time, because then you don’t have clashes to look forward to in the Drinmore or at Leopardstown at Christmas.

If you make the good horses run together in beginners’ races, you lose the anticipation for the big races. You have to have a programme which creates long-term clashes. If you have five, six or seven horses winning beginners’ chases and turning up to take each other on at Christmas or in January you’re creating that excitement.

There’s a novice hurdle at Punchestown tomorrow, confined to 130 or lower-rated horses, and there are only five runners. If that was an open, winners of one, there’d be a good few more in it. On a Grade 1 card, it’s a race catering for second-tier horses, and I don’t understand that.

I know every horse has to have his chance, and I’m not trying to run down the lower-rated horses but, to get handicapped, horses have to run and if the handicapper is not happy with how they have run, he doesn’t have to give them a mark. I’m sure it’s not easy to find the perfect solution, but setting the programme for the ordinary horse is not the way forward.

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