Five rides, and probably not the strongest-looking book I’ve had, but that’s the nature of racing in the countdown to the Cheltenham.
I’m in Fairyhouse today for three rides, where I start off on Sure Reef. He looked like he could be a very good horse when he won a Grade Two novice hurdle at Leopardstown, but that was a long time ago and he has had plenty of problems.
His first run back, behind Supasundae, was probably an okay run, but his second, behind Jezki, was disappointing. He could be off a reasonable mark, but it looks a competitive race.
Presenting Percy and That’s A Wrap have been running consistently well in competitive races, while Shannak won well the last day, and Dad runs a horse called On Impulse, who hasn’t run in a long time, but is not a bad horse. His last run was in a Grade One, albeit more than two years ago, and he could be well treated off 123.
The feature is the Bobbyjo Chase, and I ride Pleasant Company. Theoretically, he’s a few pounds wrong with a couple of these. He’s well in with Roi Des Francs, but a couple of pounds wrong with Wounded Warrior and Baie Des Iles, but I thought he ran well in the Thyestes, on his first run of the season.
Obviously, Champagne West bolted in, but our lad ran well and has improved for the run. He’s in good form but will improve for better ground, and I think he’s a horse who, hopefully, could have a chance in either the Irish or English Grand National.
Dicosimo, who I ride in the beginners’ chase, ran way better the last day, at Thurles, than on his previous outings over fences. I think the bigger track at Fairyhouse will suit him, stamina-wise. It’s an open-looking race but Thurles was a big step forward and if he can make a similar step forward he must have a great chance.
In the bumper, Willie runs a horse called Fulham Road. He has long had a huge reputation but has had plenty of problems. But, Patrick has been riding him in all his work for the last three months, and minding him like a pet. He goes well at home, and Patrick has done great work to get him to the track.
Dad runs Seabass in the hunter chase. He is 14 but I wouldn’t be shocked if he won. I watched him at home recently and he is in great form.
In tomorrow’s first race at Naas, the ground won’t be in Kolumbus’ favour, but he is in good form at home, has a couple of good runs under his belt and, hopefully, can get through.
Tomorrow’s card is very good, and, though I’ll be watching on from the side-line, I’ll be interested to see how Space Cadet gets on in the novice handicap chase. I think he could be well treated off a mark of 132, and might be one to keep an eye on.
In the Grade Two Novice Hurdle I ride Pravalaguna. She was very disappointing in Fairyhouse, where she folded quickly going to the second-last, but she drops back two furlongs in trip, and I’d hope she will run an awful lot better tomorrow.
She will have to improve as a career-best will be needed to beat Joey Sasa and Dad’s horse, Any Second Now, who has done nothing wrong in two runs over hurdles.
If Pravalaguna is going to earn herself a place on the boat to Cheltenham, she will have to go very close.
Peace News has been a bit disappointing, while Labaik is a good horse and if he behaves himself and jumps off this time, he could go well. Joey Sasa also brings strong form to the table. His runs are all very good, and he made a bad mistake when third behind Let’s Dance at Leopardstown.
In the Grade Three Chase, I think Clarcam will struggle, even though he is highest rated, and Alisier D’Irlande can pop out and make all.
It was very tough on connections of Gold Cup favourite Thistlecrack to have to rule him out of the festival. It was a brave move for them to go down the Gold Cup route and they must be bitterly disappointed not to get him there but, whatever you look at it, he’s a King George winner and so has had one helluva novice season.
Colin Tizzard still has a huge chance with Native River, a horse I’ve been impressed with this season.
He’s a progressive horse, having won two handicaps before an impressive performance in the Denman Chase.
From our own point of view, things have been going well with Djakadam, touch wood, and if they were to keep going that way we’d be happy. He was placed in the last two Gold Cups, and if we can get him back there in the same form or maybe a little bit better than he was last year, we must go there thinking he has a great chance.
There’s no Don Cossack, no Thistlecrack, no Vautour, no Coneygree, but this will be very competitive, nevertheless. It’s an open Gold Cup, and I think there’ll be a big field, which will make it more difficult for everyone.
All our Cheltenham horses are stepping up their work, and it’s a case of ‘so far, so good’ with them.
But, at this time of the year, you’re rolling the dice every morning, and hoping they’re all going to be okay when they’ve finished.
Curragh debate more complicated than it may appear
There has been a bit of a furore about the redevelopment of The Curragh, and the decision to continue to race, with a limit of 6,000 for the Irish Derby, but I think it’s more complicated than people have given it credit for.
We are lucky enough to have plenty of very good racecourse in Ireland, but we don’t have the venues to cope with staging Derby weekend. Naas and Navan are fabulous racetracks, but small venues, while Punchestown has the venue, but doesn’t stage Flat racing.
A limitation of 6,000 is quite small but, other than Leopardstown, I don’t think there was an option. They were hardly going to move it to Galway, or Listowel, who could cope with the capacity.
The problem Leopardstown had is that it doesn’t have a sprint track. People asked if they could have looked at it and moved the winning post, but I have no doubt they looked at that.
I don’t believe there were as many options as people think and, for the length of time it’s going to take to redevelop The Curragh, we’re going to have to live with it.
Ruby’s best bets
Fulham Road 5:10 Fairyhouse
Dicosimo 4:05 Fairyhouse Kolumbus 2:20 Naas, Sunday
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