I could have gone to Newbury this afternoon, but choosing which horse to ride would have been difficult so I decided to stay at home for what I hope could be easier pickings at Gowran Park.
I’m on Ballycasey in the Red Mills Chase, and he has a great chance. He ran well for a long way in the Thyestes Chase and I don’t know whether it was the lack of a run or the trip which caught him out, but he faded tamely. Back to today’s conditions, over which he is a course and distance winner, I think he’ll go very close.
He and Morning Assembly were similarly rated as novices but Pat Fahy’s horse is having his second run back after an absence and the ‘bounce factor’ is a concern, while two and a half miles could be plenty far enough for Smashing. Glenwood For Ever has to make a huge step up, so it all points to Ballycasey having a great chance.
Paul Townend often rides Just Get Cracking, but he’s in Warwick today so I get the leg-up. I’m not sure about his form over two and a half miles, but he’s the pick on overall form. He’s just a six-year-old, a solid jumper, and could be improving. He may have been left in front too soon when eventual winner The Mooch made a mistake at Leopardstown. With that in mind, I’ll be trying to play my hand as late as possible, and think he has a really good chance.
On ratings Sempre Medici should win the Red Mills Trial Hurdle. He was second in the International Hurdle at Cheltenham, won a conditions hurdle at Naas, and is in good form. The drop back to two miles, from two-three, should really suit, and he is the one to beat. Sizing Tennessee is probably the danger, but he benefitted from a great ride from Johnny Burke last time, and may need to improve again.
I’m on Tongie in the two-and-a-half-mile handicap hurdle and, while my reading of the form suggests the handicapper may have him in his grip, he jumps well and has an each-way chance in a competitive race.
Had I gone to Newbury I would have had the choice of four of Willie’s five runners in the Betfair and, honestly, I’m not sure which one I would have chosen.
I was disappointed with Buiseness Sivola last time and would find that hard to forgive, so probably wouldn’t have gone with him. Dicosimo won well at Limerick but he has a lot of weight to carry.
Kalkir ran a blinder in the Coral Hurdle, and David Mullins takes off a handy 3lbs, but he’s a lot worse off with Ivan Grozny now. The latter ran better than his placing suggests, having pulled hard for much of the journey, and should be suited by this stronger race. I see he’s about 40-1, and that could offer a little each-way value.
But Blazer is clearly the strongest of Willie’s quintet, as he’s 7bs well-in having been put up 12lb for his win at Leopardstown last weekend. To my eye, he looked to have at least 12lb in hand and really should win this – provided it doesn’t come too soon.
Barry (Geraghty) fancies him, but the horse raced on Sunday, was ridden out during the week, and headed to Newbury on Thursday. To my mind, he’ll either win well or run a long way below himself, I can’t see an in-between for him.
We run Bleu Berry in the bumper at Newbury, as he is qualified to run in a bumper in Britain, but not in Ireland. And here’s the reason why: he has run in AQPS races in France, which the Turf Club deem flat races but the BHA deem bumpers.
Also, it’s the middle of February and Willie wants to preserve his maiden status over hurdles until next season. Whether or not he’s good enough to win a bumper of this standard I don’t know, but we’ll be disappointed if he doesn’t go well.
At Warwick, Paul (Townend) rides Open Eagle in the first race, and he should go very well. He found only Thomas Hobson too good last time, and this looks easier. Rebecca Curtis’s horse (Mystical Knight) must be well-regarded, with Mark Walsh going over to ride it, but this is a drop in grade for Open Eagle and he should take beating.
Petite Parisienne runs in the mares’ hurdle. She has been disappointing this season but would have claims if able to rediscover last season’s form.
I have just two rides tomorrow at Navan, starting with Sambremont in three-horse race. He’ll be the outsider of the party, but you know what they say about the outsider in a three-horse race.
The two-mile trip might be a bit sharp for him, but he is improving and should give a good account. Tell Us More will be better around this left-handed track than he was when winning at Gowran Park but on ratings Ttebbob is the one to beat. He’ll go a good gallop and will be hard to catch.
I’m on Black Hercules in the Ten Up Novice Chase and, while he is a very good ride, this is a competitive race and will not be a walkover.
You could make a case for most of them, but if one of these is going to line-up in the RSA Chase of the four-miler at Cheltenham with a genuine chance it’s only going to be the winner. Hopefully that will be Black Hercules.
Blow By Blow looks the one to be on in the bumper. He ran well on debut at Punchestown, has improved since, and will be hard to beat.
* Ruby Walsh will feature as one of our special guests at The Everyman in Cork on Thursday, March 3 when the Irish Examiner presents ‘Inside the Sporting Mind’, a unique gathering of Examiner sports writers and columnists.
The evening features Liam Brady in conversation with Liam Mackey, O’Gara face-to-face with Donal Lenihan and Ruby Walsh with Tommy Lyons.
These will be followed by a panel discussion. The event starts @ 8pm. Tickets are on sale for €25 each. Visit everymancork.com for details.
48-hour declarations may not be as beneficial as punters think
This week the Turf Club produced statistics for 2015 and they made for interesting reading.
There wasn’t a lot we didn’t already know, such as there are seven fewer national hunt trainers and two fewer flat trainers than in the previous year, but one stat which caught the eye was the one in relation to non-runners.
While there is a distinct group of people, including many punters, who would like to have 48-hour declarations as a regular occurrence in Ireland, they may not be as beneficial as believed.
In Ireland, where the declarations for Saturday and Sunday are made on Friday, it was interesting to note that the day which has the greatest percentage of non-runners, by some margin, is Sunday, with 27.1% of total non-runners. Compare that to Saturday, which is only 14.3% - almost half the amount.
That there were 207 more non-runners on Sundays (total 436) tells a tale. To me, that says 48-hour declarations don’t work, or certainly are not as beneficial to punters as they might think.
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