It is a great bit of publicity and nice for the people who will attend or be watching on television but you need to be careful when making comparisons with the pre-Cheltenham gallops at Leopardstown.
Some commentators have remarked on the number cloths that Aidan O’Brien will have on his horses and that the same should be the case for the various trainers at Leopardstown to allow people to identify the horses. But you’re not comparing like with like.
Aidan’s horses won’t be doing their last bit of work before the Derby. They’re having a canter early in the year, with no target in the next three weeks.
I have a couple of nice chances over the weekend. Jarry D’Honneur (3.50) kicks things off for me in Navan today. He ran well for a long way in the Flogas (which we still call the Moriarty) before unseating AP McCoy at the last. He was quite keen that day and maybe 2m 5f tested him. I didn’t think he’d have any trouble with stamina as he won over two and a half at Punchestown.
He does like to get on with the job but he’s 140 rated and if that is to be believed he should win here. He’s in really good form at home and it looks an ideal opportunity for him to get his head in front again. The drop down to 2m 1f shouldn’t inconvenience him. He needed the run the last time he ran over the distance so that doesn’t concern me.
Felix Yonger (4.25) won the Hilly Way before having a bit of a setback. Leopardstown was an ideal comeback over hurdles and winning there puts him in good condition for a Grade 2 like this. He could have gone to Fairyhouse but both races are worth the same money. I know he’s only won once over two and a half but I’ve always been of the opinion that it would suit him. I didn’t think he sparked in the spring at all last year; maybe running on testing ground through the winter didn’t suit him. He seems to be in good nick and he won well the last day. Hopefully he can do so again and set himself up for a pop at a bigger race at Punchestown.
Flemenstar makes his comeback after a long lay-off, with a change of rider in Keith Donoghue. He’s obviously a very good horse but he’s had 18 months off, he’s not getting any younger and I’d imagine they’d have their eyes on bigger things down the road with him.
I ride Star Of Aragorn (2.55) for James Nash in Limerick. I suppose he’s having an unusual prep for a race like this, having run in Dundalk last night. But the race has cut up and James is giving him a go. Your Busy ran well for him in Cork so hopefully Star Of Aragorn can do the same.
Willie runs Bosman Rule and Sambremont in the two-and-a-half mile novice hurdle (3.30) and I’ve plumped for the latter, who’s a half-brother to Djakadam. I was a little disappointed with him in Thurles but looking back on it, he’s not that far behind Milsean, who ran a blinder at Cheltenham. He probably wants further but there are no races coming up so he has to run over two and a half.
Bosman Rule won last time over two miles but I think there’s a good race to be won with Sabremont. I think he’ll be a smashing horse over fences next year. I would love if this race was further but he’s wearing cheek pieces and I think he’ll give a really good account of himself.
I finish up on Val De Ferbet (4.35). He bolted in at Fairyhouse, beating Noble Emperor. He made a very bad mistake at the third last in Naas when Danny Mullins rode him. It looked like he didn’t get home that day but we’ve always thought he was a horse that wanted a trip. I’d say he’d improve for the better ground that we have now.
We’re very happy with his work and he’ll give a real good account of himself. Rule The World is the top-rated horse in the race but he’s still a maiden. Bishops Road isn’t too bad either but at the entry stage, this looked a stronger race than it does now. If Val De Ferbet gets into a good jumping rhythm he’ll run a huge race.