We have been working and schooling a lot of horses and, thankfully, the majority of them have gone well.
Let’s hope all the work proves worth the effort next week.
Tuesday’s horses were due to depart the yard this morning, with the lads coming in at 4:30am to feed them, load them on the lorry, and head to the boat for a 6:30 departure.
With the weather the way it is, I’d imagine the Rosslare route would have been used as it’s a shorter road on both sides.
In windy conditions, they might head to Dublin to cross from there as the water would be calmer on the way across.
But that also adds road time here and in Britain.
While many of the big decisions have not yet been made, any of the horses which will run on Tuesday had to be on the lorry this morning — that’s the only certainty.
I expect to have at least four rides on the opening day, and that could become five if Bryan Cooper chooses to ride Killer Crow in the novices’ handicap chase.
If that happens, I could get the leg up on McKinley. He’s a quirky character but is a Grade One winner over hurdles.
I schooled him yesterday morning, he jumped well and is in great form. He could be each-way value.
Most of the horses worked pretty hard yesterday so hopefully they’ve all come out of it in top form.
They went well, which doesn’t make choosing which ones to ride any easier.
I’ll wait until I get over to Cheltenham, see how they travelled over, and walk the course before I make my decisions.
They’re officially giving the ground as soft but my experience tells me if they get three glorious days it will be on the fast side of good.
It’s an unbelievable course to dry out, and how quickly that happens will be a big factor in my decisions.
At this stage, I’ll be glad when all talking is over, and the action begins.
While I’m not on track in Ireland this weekend, Willie still has five runners, the best of which is Augustin, who runs in the second of the two bumpers on this afternoon’s card at Limerick.
He won well in Clonmel last time out and has improved since.
He’s a very tough horse and, while he may not look like the winner at many stages of the race, by the time they have him beaten they’ll know all about it.
The Clonmel victory was over two miles, but he should really appreciate the step up to two-three, and I think will take beating.
Miss Me Now should go well in the mares’ maiden hurdle. I was supposed to ride her at Downpatrick but the meeting was called off.
She is in very good order, and has schooled well ahead of her hurdling debut.
This doesn’t look the strongest of races and, as a bumper winner, I cannot imagine she’ll be very far away.
Another mare I’d expect a bold showing from is Monbeg Rose, who runs against her own sex in the novice hurdle on tomorrow’s card at Limerick.
This race represents a drop in class for her, as she was taking on the geldings on her last couple of outings.
She won well at Thurles in December but disappointed there next time.
Willie put a hood on her at Punchestown last time, and she performed much better, in a decent race won by Ball D’Arc.
She’s a winning point to pointer, so you’d imagine the step up to two-six should suit her.
I don’t think the opposition was the problem last time, rather the two-mile trip was on the sharp side.
She wears the hood again, which should help her settle for Paul (Townend).
She had the option of going to Cheltenham but Willie felt it might be too much for her at this stage.
However, if she gives a good account of herself here she could head to Fairyhouse in two weeks’ time for the Grade One.
Yet another mare representing the stable this weekend is Uranna, who steps up to three miles for the novice chase. She got her act together at Thurles last time, where she jumped well and won readily. I don’t think the step up in trip will be a problem, but in testing conditions over three miles I think Bonny Kate might outstay her.
I thought it was a very good performance from Noel Meade’s mare when she beat Baie Des Iles, which I rode, in the Grand National Trial at Punchestown.
She jumps well, stays strongly, and might prove too strong for Uranna on this occasion.
The last of Willie’s five runners this weekend is Invitation Only, who runs in the bumper at Navan, and he must have very strong claims.
He won his point-to-point in Ballynoe, and did a piece of work with a bumper winner this week and went well.
If our horses were winning bumpers hand over fist, as they were in previous seasons, you’d almost think he was a good thing, but they haven’t been and so you have to be cautious.
He’s certainly working well enough to win.
Augustin 5:35 Limerick
Miss Me Now 2:05 Limerick Monbeg Rose 2:35 Limerick, Sunday