Over the past few weeks I’ve had plenty of tough decisions to make as to which horse to ride in races where Willie has had more than one runner, but I think that reached record levels for tomorrow’s Grade 1 Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown, where I had the choice of six. There were other decisions to be made, and it’s almost inevitable I’ve got some of them wrong, but, depending on your point of view, it’s probably not a bad position to be in.
But those decisions are for tomorrow, and before that I have two rides today at Naas, starting with Dad’s horse, Aretesone, in the novice hurdle. I thought he got stuck in the ground in Down Royal last time, as it was very testing. Hopefully Naas will be a bit dryer, but I can’t imagine it will be much quicker. He drops back in trip, and a strongly run two miles might suit him. He is what he is, and doesn’t win that often, but he’s consistent and must have a chance in what looks an open race.
You’d have to be hopeful Listen Dear could extend her winning sequence in the Opera Hat Mares’ Listed Chase. It’s an open mares’ race, but the danger would appear to be the novices, Slowmotion and Keppols Queen. She’s a bit wrong at the weights with Slowmotion and spot-on with Keppols Queen, but seems to be in good order, and jumped well in her three starts to date over fences. I’m expecting a bold show, and will be disappointed if she doesn’t deliver.
There’s a terrific card tomorrow at Leopardstown and, while I will be sitting-out the Irish Gold Cup, I have some good rides on the day. I can only hope I’ve made the right choices.
In the Spring Juvenile Hurdle I could have ridden Bapaume or Meri Devie, but have gone with the former. Both won at the Christmas meeting at this track but Bapaume won a graded race, while Meri Devie won a maiden hurdle. You can’t deny she was very impressive, but his form looks a bit stronger.
They both seem to be in good form and, as you’d expect from most four-year-olds as the years goes on, they’ve improved since Christmas. They will have to have, though, because this is a hot race.
Bapaume has to give Meri Devie seven pounds, as she has the mares’ allowance, but the ground, which could be a bit softer than at Christmas, won’t make any difference to him, but could make a difference to her as she’s a really good-actioned filly.
I had only the six to choose from in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle, and went with Saturnas. There have been a few small changes to the programme, and that’s what has left us with so many runners here. Some of them would have been running in winners’ races, but those races seem to have gone out of the programme.
I think Bacardys and Bravissimo probably want further to be at their best, while Chateau Conti and Bunk Off Early were impressive in their respective maidens, but both have had just one run over hurdles.
Riven Light didn’t jump great at Christmas, when behind Saturnas, but his schooling has improved since. He will have to translate that to the track, because he’ll have to jump a helluva lot better to be competitive here.
Saturnas is the Grade 1 winner, and that’s a lot of the reason I went for him. He won that race well at Christmas, over two miles, and I think the step up two-two will suit him. I’ve gone for form over potential. Potentially, who knows what Bunk Off Early, Chateau Conti, Bravissimo or Bacardys could be?
The form of Saturnas’ race at Christmas was strong, and the time was quick. Maybe I’ve played it safe, siding with the form horse over the potentials, but you have to have some rationale behind your decisions.
It was the same with the race before (the Juvenile Hurdle). When you look at our novices this year, that seems to be the trend. Airlie Beach had the experience when she won the Royal Bond, Saturnas had more experience than Riven Light when he won at Christmas, Livelovelaugh had more experience than Aussie Reigns when winning on Thursday at Thurles, Asthuria had more experience than Pravalaguna last weekend, and Let’s Dance had more experience than our other horses the week before. It just seems to be that way. Maybe it has taken me too long to cotton on, and the ship has sailed, but that’s the way I’m thinking.
Willie runs two in the Flogas Novice Chase, but there was no choice as, obviously, Barry (Geraghty) rides Bleu Et Rouge. I ride Bellshill, a horse I’ve always thought a lot of, and he’s in good order. He won his beginners’ chase well and was very good at Christmas in Limerick, but this is a better race.
A Toi Phil was a good winner of the Leopardstown Chase, but Balko Des Flos is turning out quickly after running over three miles. Bleu Et Rouge surprised me when he departed so early in the Arkle at this track, but seems to be in really good order at home. Disko and Our Duke are both stayers, and there wasn’t much between them in the two-and-a-half-mile Grade 1 here at Christmas, but I like Bellshill a lot and think he will go close.
I’ve known for a little while, looking at the entries, that I was going to be sitting out the Irish Gold Cup. As for who wins the race, a lot will depend on the ground and the pace of the race.
If it’s wet, you’d have to fancy Don Poli, but if it stays dry that will help dual winner Carlingford Lough. Sizing John is probably the dark horse, while Empire Of Dirt was a good winner of the Troytown and that race has worked out really well. It’s hard to call, but will make interesting viewing.
Dad runs Foxrock in the Hunter Chase. On The Fringe is the one they all have to beat, but Foxrock might have a fitness edge over him. Dad’s happy with him, and hopefully he’ll go well.
Willie runs Voix Des Tiep in the bumper. He’s not the biggest horse in the world, but he does things nicely at home. This is always a hot bumper, but hopefully he’ll go well.
There’s great racing this afternoon in Newbury, with Altior versus Fox Norton, Bristol De Mai versus Native River, and the Betfair Hurdle, in which a lot of novices are taking their chances in a handicap. They should be informative as far as the Cheltenham Festival is concerned, and I’ll certainly be keeping an eye on the action.
ITBA request a complete non-starter
I was reading some of the points which came out of the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association (ITBA) seminar this week, and I found it almost laughable that they are looking for five-days’ notice for a random inspection from the Department of Agriculture. The breeding industry and the racing industry need to be on the same sheet. Looking for five-days’ notice for a spot-check is liking ringing the guards and asking where the checkpoints are before you get into the car with no tax, no insurance, and two pints on you. It beggars belief that you could even ask for that. For anyone with nothing to hide, spot-checks won’t bother them.