A key weekend as wraps come off young stars

The National Hunt season is hitting full stride now, and thus this is a good weekend for us to begin to unwrap some of our best young horses of last season.

A key weekend as wraps come off young stars

Some big names have been coming out recently, including Uknowhatimeanharry, who was spectacular in the Long Distance Hurdle yesterday at Newbury.

He absolutely romped in, while Altior was brilliant during the week, and Cue Card stamped his authority on the Gold Cup division.

Today we’ll see Thistlecrack again, as well as a very good field in the Hennessy. It’s a great time of the season, and hopefully we can have a good weekend which will set us up for exciting months ahead.

I start off an important couple of days aboard Invitation Only, in the two-mile maiden hurdle at Gowran Park.

He was one of our best bumper horses last season, but didn’t travel to England. He won at Navan on the Sunday before Cheltenham, and then went to Punchestown and won a winners’ race. He seems to be in good order at home, Willie is happy with him, and he should be hard to beat.

We had Barra last year, but she’s now with Gordon Elliott. She’s a very decent filly, and receives 7lb, so this could be a good race.

New To This Town was one of the favourites for the bumper at Cheltenham, and must be respected, making this a cracking maiden hurdle.

I’m on Tennis Cap in the two-and-a-half-mile chase and, while the trip suits him, on ratings he has plenty to do.

He’s 13lb wrong with Zabana and 5lb wrong with Ttebbob, and that’s a big ask. Champagne West is interesting, having his first run for Henry De Bromhead.

Bellshill makes his return in what looks a competitive beginners’ chase, but I’ve always been a massive fan of the horse and am very hopeful he can make a winning start. He won a couple of Grade Ones last season, has been going well at home and hopefully will get the chance to reach the same level over fences.

Don’t Touch It is obviously a good horse, having won a Grade One at the backend of last season, and rates an obvious danger. That was over two miles, and Bellshill won over three miles, but they’re meeting over two and a half today.

There’s a huge field for the opening maiden hurdle tomorrow at Navan, but Battleford should take beating. He was second in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham and in Aintree, and is a very tough horse, who stays well. He’d probably want the ground to be as slow as it’s going to be, and may want further than two miles in time, but Navan will suit him, and he’ll be up there all the way. Hopefully he’ll be good enough.

The Monksfield Novice Hurdle is a cracking race, with Death Duty, Livelovelaugh and Monbeg Notorious, to name just three. I’m on Livelovelaugh, who is an improving horse but probably has to improve again to win this. He should give a good account of himself, but I rode the other two in their maidens and was more impressed with Death Duty. He looks the one to beat.

I ride Orchard Road, who I won on at Clonmel, in the two-mile handicap. He’s a tough little horse who does his best, but I’m not sure how much more he has up his sleeve.

If he could be placed that would be a great run for him.

Min makes his chasing debut in the same race which Douvan started off last year. He has schooled really well, and attacks his fences like he did his hurdles.

Edwulf is a fair horse, who looked like winning here last year over fences, but Min doesn’t hang around, and the drier the ground the better for him. He was a very good hurdler, and found only Altior too good for him at Cheltenham.

He’s in great form and hopefully can start off like Douvan did last year. I don’t know if he’ll end up where Douvan ended up, but we’re starting in the same place, anyway.

The Troytown is very open, with just shy of half the field coming from Gordon Elliott’s Cullentra House Stables. I think my mount, Sambremont, is on a mark he could win a big handicap off but whether he can win a race like this or not on his first run back I don’t know.

I think he’ll stay, even though that has looked suspect in the past. But I think he can win a big race off a rating of 137. I hope it’s tomorrow, but if not it will be in the future. Bonny Kate and Hash Brown look interesting.

The Crafty Butcher is having his first run for us, in the valuable handicap hurdle. He’s coming back off a lay-off and will probably improve for the run, but I think Katie has a chance on Baie Des Iles.

Glens Harmony, who runs in the bumper, is a fair filly and is in good order. She was a bit of revelation last year, has improved since, and hopefully will collect.

The Hennessy, at Newbury, looks a very good race. Watching racing from the track on the television yesterday, the ground looked decent, and I think Native River is the one they all have to beat. Colin Tizzard’s horses are in great form, and he sets the standard.

If there’s to be a Gold Cup horse in the field, it will have to bolt in because, other than Smad Place, they will need to improve in the region of 20lb to get up to Cue Card’s level. It’s a big ask.

The Irish players weren’t the only ones left frustrated

I went to see Ireland host the All Blacks last weekend.

It was a tough game, but a great game.

Maybe it’s just me, and maybe I’m just being awkward, but the amount of people going in and out of the stand all through the match, to go to the bars or to the toilets, was incredible. And annoying!

If people really wanted to go to the bar that much, why didn’t they just go to the pub instead of the stadium?

As a spectator, trying to watch the match while having to stand up 17 times during the second-half was frustrating.

It certainly took from the atmosphere, and I don’t think it’s respectful to anybody who has gone to watch the match to be walking in and out by them during the game. I’d hate to do it in Thomond Park, or Anfield, or Semple Stadium, or Croke Park — you would just get booed off the terrace, and told to sit down.

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