He hasn’t run over hurdles for two years, since he was second to Quick Jack in this race, but went on to win the Lonsdale Cup at York and finish second in the Melbourne Cup.
We fancied him going to Ascot last year, but he got injured in the Ascot Gold Cup and hasn’t been seen since. It has taken us a bit of time to get him back on the go, but he seems to be in great form and we think he’s on a good mark.
We can’t have him any better, but whether that’s good enough, after more than 12 months off, to win a Galway Hurdle, we don’t know. You would love to be coming here on the back of a couple of runs, knowing you’re 100% fit. We think he is, but you don’t know until you try.
Obviously, you need luck in running, but I wouldn’t swap him for any other horse in the race.
Clondaw Warrior was great last year, but has gone up a good bit in the handicap, and carries top weight. He had a couple of good runs since, winning in Clonmel and when behind Vroum Vroum Mag at Christmas, but he has disappointed a few times since, particularly when very lacklustre in Tipperary and Killarney.
Willie is trying him in blinkers, and the horse likes Galway, and has a good record here. If he could run into the money it would be a massive effort from him.
Ivan Grozny was disappointing last time in Tipperary, and that’s a track which should have suited him. He won over a mile and six on the flat here last year, but the handicapper also looks to have him by the throat.
Airlie Beach was a Grade 1 winner last December, and won a mares’ hurdle here in September. She disappointed a little in Cheltenham, but ran well behind Apple’s Jade at Punchestown. She’s in foal, in great order, has been a fine servant for connections, and could run a big race.
Outside of our runners, the green and gold colours of J P McManus will likely have a major say in this race, with the likes of Tigris River, Timiyan, Princely Conn and Project Bluebook, to name just a few.
I don’t think four-year-olds have the strongest record in the race. I’m not sure how may have run in it, but not many have won it, and that could count against Project Bluebook. Tigris River and Princely Conn both ran a blinder in this race last year, and Timiyan is improving at a rate of knots.
It’s a cracking race and, with 20 runners, all with their own idea of what they want to do, you’re going to need a bit of luck. You’ll find eight, ten, maybe even 12 jockeys want to be in the same place, and it can be rough. I got a marvellous run last year, and will be hoping for half as much luck this year.
Willie runs Bosman Rule in the opener, a beginners’ chase, and Danny (Mullins) is on board. It’s the horse’s first run since Christmas and, while he’s in good form and should like the ground, he will improve for the run.
Willie runs two, Townshend and Rathvinden, in the two-mile-two novice chase and it was a tough enough task to split them. But the trip was the deciding factor, and that’s why I’ve gone with Townshend.
He has to give 7lbs to Rathvinden, who was a very good winner in Wexford, but that was over three miles and a furlong, whereas Townshend has been running over the minimum trip and winning well.
This is a very competitive race and, on ratings, Don’t Touch It is the one we all have to beat. He’s a Grade 1-winning novice hurdler, and has taken well to fences, so should go well.
Peregrine Run will love the ground, and he was a good winner the last day, over two miles. He has improved since he finished behind Townshend on his chasing debut, and will appreciate the extra two furlongs. And Landofhopeofglory wasn’t much further behind in that Roscommon race, and has won since.
It’s a cracking race, and both of ours are in great order. I’ve gone for Townshend, at the trip, but Rathvinden is a very, very good horse and if he’s within shouting distance in the dip he’ll be the one coming home best.
Willie also runs two in the novice hurdle over two and a half miles, and I’ve gone with Lac Kivu, who was a winner on his only start for us. He beat Cinema De Quartier that day, and the runner-up went on to win a maiden but disappointed here on Tuesday.
But Lac Kivu is in great order, he just wouldn’t want too much rain. He likes good ground, and will handle a little cut, but just wouldn’t want it to get soft.
He’s not a flashy horse, so we were a little surprised with the manner of his victory at Punchestown, but he showed a lot more gears on the track than in his work, and I like that – it’s always a good sign when they surprise you at the track, rather than disappoint you.
Robin Des Foret has won three times over hurdles, and will love the trip, but has to give 12lbs to Lac Kivu, and that’s a fair chunk of weight.
Bhutan is also an interesting runner. He’d want to jump as well as he jumped at Tipperary last time, but he won cosily and looked like a horse with a big future. His trainer, Joseph O’Brien, won the two novice hurdles already run at the meeting, and Bhutan must be given maximum respect.