Msassa set to continue juvenile hurdlers’ good run

Leopardstown’s Christmas festival had everything, both from Willie Mullins’ point of view, and from the racecourse point of view, writes Ruby Walsh.

Msassa set to continue juvenile hurdlers’ good run

On St Stephen’s Day, you had the wow factor of Footpad, whose performance was spectacular.

The following day, you had enough drama to write a novel, let alone have it at a race meeting. The stewards did what they had to do in demoting Min and promoting Simply Ned – it looked the obvious decision. I’m not sure Min put his best foot forward, but there was great drama and it made for a great atmosphere around Leopardstown.

And, of course, you had the novice hurdle, with Mengli Khan running through the wing at the second-last, and then Willie looking like he was going to have the first three home and the front two then falling at the last, and Whiskey Sour coming through to win. It was 40 minutes of entertainment in Leopardstown which I had never witnessed.

And then on Thursday you had all the hype about Sizing John and Yorkhill, but the two of them blew out, and Road To Respect popped up. Standing in the ring after that race, I found it eerily quiet.

From a personal point of view, the low point of the week was Nichols Canyon being fatally injured. He was a wonderful little horse, who brought great pride to the yard. He was a great little character. The manner in which his owners, Graham and Andrea Wylie, conducted themselves on Thursday was incredible.

Yesterday, there was the disappointment of seeing Faugheen being pulled up in the Ryanair Hurdle. He, too, has been a great star for the stable, and hopefully whatever ailed him yesterday is not too serious, and he can make it back to the track.

Overall, there was great competitive racing. I probably moaned a bit about some of the handicaps, thinking they should be run somewhere else, but they were competitive races, and added to the week. Trainwreck and Ben Dundee could be two handicap hurdlers you could see performing to a much higher level in the spring, and are worth keeping an eye on.

Tony Martin bounced back to form with Anibale Fly in the Paddy Power Chase and, to a horse, I thought Henry De Bromhead’s team were in the best form. A lot of them ran 8-10lbs above themselves, which is what stable form is about, and he must have been delighted with himself.

I’m only focusing on Leopardstown because that’s where I was, but I’m sure if you were in Limerick, there was plenty of drama and excitement there. And Kempton had Might Bite, Buveur D’Air, Bryony Frost on Black Corton, and Politologue.

But it was a hard week on people too. No matter how good a run you’re having or how things are bouncing for you, you always need a bit of luck. Jack Kennedy had plenty of falls on a tough week, and so did Paul Townend. I watched Davy Russell hobbling out of the track on Thursday with his foot in a flip-flop and a bag of ice around it, but he bounced back to win a Grade 1 yesterday.

Racing gets to showcase itself for Christmas, and this year it didn’t let itself down.

Looking ahead to tomorrow’s card at Punchestown, Willie runs Augustin and Some Neck in three-miles-one-furlong beginners’ chase and both should love the trip.

They’re both the kind of horses you could see contesting a Thyestes or a Troytown Chase in 12 or 24 months’ time. They are two dour stayers, both jump really well, and there isn’t a lot between them. I’m just glad I don’t have to pick between them. They should contest big races off good racing weights some time down the line, and I’ll probably pick the wrong one then, too.

Monbeg Notorious was too good for Augustin when they met over hurdles and, with fitness and experience on his side, may prove too good on this occasion.

It’s great to see Killultagh Vic back on the track, in the two-and-a-half-mile hurdle. He has been going well at home, and everyone is really happy with him.

He hasn’t run since he somehow managed to win that Grade 2 novice chase in Leopardstown, but this is a good starting point for him and hopefully he can build on this race and move on to bigger and better things when he goes back over fences.

Fair play to his owners, Frank and Rose Boyd, for the patience they’ve shown with him. It’s wonderful to have him back, and he’ll give a good account of himself.

Msassa makes his debut for us in the juvenile hurdle. I don’t know if he’s a Mr Adjudicator or a Stormy Ireland, but he does work nicely at home, and is in good form. You’d have to be encouraged by the fact the only two other juveniles we have run have won, so hopefully he can make it three.

We run Camelia De Cotte and Steel Wave in the two-and-a-half-mile handicap hurdle, and they’re similar types of horses, insofar they’re both quite keen.

Steel Wave ran a blinder in Punchestown on his last start and, on form, I suppose you’d have to side with him. But, I just think Camelia De Cotte could be ahead of the handicapper too. She’s a bit mad, and things haven’t really worked out for her, but she’ll love the ground, whereas I’m not as sure that will be the case with Steel Wave.

We run Ifyoucatchmenow in the bumper and David Dunsdon owners her and rides her. He won the race last year, on Redhotfillypeppers. She’s not flashy but when she goes away from home she’s a better mare, so that would give you hope. We say what Carefully Selected did the other day, winning a bumper at Leopardstown, and he’s not a flashy horse either, but also a different horse when he went to the track, so hopefully Ifyoucatchmenow can make a winning debut on the track.

Ruby’s best bets



2:10 Punchestown, Sunday


Killultagh Vic

1:40 Punchestown, Sunday


3:45 Punchestown, Sunday

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