It’s a great race to be involved in, as long as you have a good ride, and that’s the case today. It’s a good race, with Ar Mad, Sire De Grugy - who won it last year - and God’s Own amongst the opposition.
Ar Mad was very impressive when he won the Henry VIII Novice Chase on this card last year, but we think Un De Sceaux is in good order, he’s ready to start, his work is good, and so is his schooling.
He has course experience, having finished behind Sprinter Sacre in April and, while we’d have loved it to have been much softer, there’s not much we can do about that. But he’s in good form, and we’re looking forward to having a go.
On God’s Own’s best form, from Punchestown and Aintree, he’d have a chance, but he has been beaten twice this year, and is dropping back to two miles. Vibrato Valtat and Sir Valentino would have to improve to have a say.
I’ll be an interested spectator for the Henry VIII Novice Chase, as Supreme Novice Hurdle winner Altior takes on Charbel. I thought he was very good in Kempton but, purely because of the competition, this is a very different race.
Charbel is a decent horse, who likes to rock along, and will give Altior a good lead. He led him into the straight in the Supreme and can give him a race but, on all known form, Altior should win.
Willie runs a few in Fairyhouse this afternoon, starting with Childrens List in beginners’ chase. If this was a handicap hurdle, he’d only be fifth or sixth in the ratings, so is up against it. He would need a career-best to win, but he has to start somewhere, is in good form, and jumps well.
Jarry D’Honneur goes in the handicap chase, but he hasn’t run in a very long time, and will improve for the run.
Castello Sforza runs in the maiden hurdle. He has been working really well, and his schooling has been okay. He finished fourth in last year’s Champion Bumper, but those in the frame in that race haven’t managed to win a hurdle since.
That might be a bit harsh, as Bacardys was going to win when he fell in a maiden in Cork, and Ballyandy ran into Moon Racer twice and was just beaten yesterday. But it’s fact, however harsh, and hopefully Castello Sforza can change it today.
Our bumper representative, Bon Papa, works well, has improved the whole time at home, but we’re struggling for a guide as we haven’t had many runners in bumpers. Sharp’s Choice, who is a stayer, was second in a bumper at Thurles last week, and we think Bon Papa is a sharper horse than him.
Tomorrow’s card at Fairyhouse is terrific, from top to bottom. The juvenile hurdle used to be on the Saturday but they’ve switched it to Sunday, and added a hundred-grand handicap hurdle. It’s a cracking card.
I start off on Bapaume in the juvenile hurdle but it’s a bit like Bon Papa in the bumper as we’re shooting in the dark somewhat. We have a few three-year-olds but haven’t run any of them, so we don’t know where we are in regard to the others. What we do know is that this fella goes nicely, has won in France, and schools well.
Mega Fortune and Landofhopeandglory are very good horses for this time of year, and could develop into Triumph Hurdle horses, so it would be no shame to finish behind third behind the two of those.
I had three options in the Royal Bond and have gone with Penhill. I don’t know if I’m on the right one, but he has the experience, was highly rated on the flat, and has been working well.
Airlie Beach has the highest rating, so maybe I should have ridden her, while Saturnas was impressive on debut for us. I can only ride one, and have gone with Penhill, but, to my eyes, Peace News was very impressive in Cork and is probably the one we all have to beat.
There is no Faugheen in the Hatton’s Grace, and, again, it came down to a difficult decision for me, as I could have ridden Shaneshill or Whiteout, but have gone with Vroum Vroum Mag.
To me it was a shootout between Shaneshill and Vroum Vroum Mag – one is rated 154, the other 156. Shaneshill has a run under his belt, which can only aid his cause, but I think Vroum Vroum Mag could be a little unexposed at 154.
Again, I could be wrong, but she was very good at Cheltenham and Punchestown, she’s working very well, receives the mares’ allowance, and I think it would take one hell of a good horse to give her 7lbs.
I ride Sempre Medici in the handicap hurdle. He’s a genuine Grade 2 horse but has an awful lot of weight to carry. I thought Campeador, who hasn’t run since falling at the last in the Fred Winter at Cheltenham, is the one we’ll all have to go to beat.
I have no ride in the Drinmore, but I was on A Toi Phil on his last two runs, and he was very good in Punchestown. But it was only a fortnight ago and that would have to be a concern. Alpha Des Obeaux hasn’t yet scaled the same heights over fences as over hurdles, but I think he was bone idle in front at Cork, and a more competitive race will suit him.
I thought Anibale Fly was value for more than the winning margin at Naas, could be a very good horse in the making, and is the dark one in the field. He and Diamond King, who was very impressive at Galway, could be the two to concentrate on.
Willie runs Getabird in the bumper. He worked well the other day and, if Bon Papa runs well today you can take that as a good pointer to his chance tomorrow.
Ten out of ten to Thurles management
Ten out of ten to the authorities in Thurles on Thursday. In what looked a dire situation, nobody panicked.
The fog rolled in and they gave it time to roll back out again.
And then everybody pulled together to get the racing run within the restrictions of limited daylight hours.
Fair play to Lorcan Wyer, the Turf Club officials, and to everyone else – stable staff, trainers and jockeys – who helped get the entire meeting run.
It just goes to show you what can be done when everyone pulls together.