Wicklow Brave poised for a big run in Long Distance Cup

Due to the problem I spoke of in this column last week - rain, or, more specifically, the lack of it - we’re still waiting to really get going with our National Hunt horses, but Don Cossack didn’t half throw down an early marker with a brilliant comeback this week at Punchestown.

Wicklow Brave poised for a big run in Long Distance Cup

For a horse that was only 80% fit he took the sight out of my eye.

Gordon Elliott always said he was the best horse he ever had, and it’s hard to argue with that, but all I know is that all the big guns will have to be on their A-game when they meet him. He was a joy to watch.

Willie has a number of runners across three meetings this weekend but because of the current conditions I think we have better chances with our Flat horses than with the national hunt ones.

He runs three in the Long Distance Cup which sets the ball rolling on Champions’ Day at Ascot, and one of those is Clondaw Warrior, which my wife, Gillian, and some friends own.

Vincent Cheminaud is on board. I remember riding against him over jumps at Auteuil, and not long later he won the French Derby on New Bay.

I don’t know where Willie came up with him but we needn’t worry because he’s a very good jockey.

The concern is that Clondaw Warrior and Simenon were both very disappointing in the Prix du Cadran at Longchamp on Arc day. Neither seems worse for the run, it’s a valuable pot and, so, worth taking a chance. But the run in France is a worry.

Of course I’d love to see Clondaw Warrior win, but if I had to pick one of Willie’s it would be Wicklow Brave, who has been aimed at the race.

He was in the frame behind Order Of St George in the Irish Leger, is in very good form at home, and looks the pick of Willie’s three.

The first of my three rides tomorrow at Cork is Westerner Lady in the three-mile novice hurdle.

Only four run and, while she has to improve a little to come home in front, there isn’t a lot between them.

She won a bumper at Roscommon before winning over hurdles at Downpatrick, and was far too free when not getting home over this trip, at Listowel, last time.

But, this doesn’t look like the world’s strongest race, and if she puts her best foot forward has a chance.

I ride Borussia for Austin Leahy, in the two-and-a-half-mile handicap hurdle. She ran well at Tramore last time and comes here in good form.

To sound a note of caution, she hasn’t won a race and has been a long time trying, but Austin says she’s in very good form.

He fancied her at Tramore, and thinks she can run a big race again.

I’m on top-weight Un Beau Roman in the Kinsale Handicap Chase, and he has to bounce back to best form to have a chance.

He ran a great race when second behind Bally Longford at Galway, but hasn’t been as good in his three runs since.

If he could rediscover that Galway form he’d be bang there, but we go there more in hope than confidence.

Babbling Stream is having his first run for us in the bumper. He goes well at home and, although he won on soft ground at Limerick on his only start, he has been working well on good ground recently. I don’t know the strength of the opposition but, of Willie’s runners tomorrow, he has the best chance.

Willie runs two in Naas, starting with Laviniad in the listed race for fillies.

She’s had a productive summer, winning a similar race at Galway, in July, and has held her form very well.

She has to give weight to all her rivals, some of which are higher rated, but should run another good, honest race.

Noble Inn runs in the October Handicap. He bolted-in with Katie riding him the Amateur Derby at the Curragh, and has been put up 13lbs for that run.

We did think a bit further would suit him and were hoping to run him in the November Handicap (two miles) but weren’t sure he’d get in.

He came out of the Curragh race in really good form, and I’d be more than hopeful he can defy the penalty.

Champions Day doesn’t live up to its billing

I’m going to Ascot today, and it’s called Champions Day, but I don’t think it lives up to the billing.

By this stage of the season all the good races in Britain have been run, and this feels very much like a contrived idea which, in my opinion, just doesn’t work.

To be fair there is great prize money and I’ll be hoping Clondaw Warrior picks up as much of it as he can

But with Irish Champions Weekend and Arc Weekend at Longchamp coming before it, the meeting comes at the wrong time of the season.

To make it work, I think they should be looking to run it at York in August, to lead on to the Irish Champion Stakes and on to Longchamp.

That would work much better. The way things are now its simply too late in the season.

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