Cheltenham is a fair old way to travel for just one ride, but that’s the plan today.
I head across the Irish Sea to partner Glens Melody for Willie Mullins in the Grade 2 Relkeel Hurdle and the journey will be more than worthwhile, if she does the business.
There are only four runners, but this is a smart contest and Glens Melody will have to be every bit as good as we think she is to deliver.
You cannot dismiss any of her three rivals, but you’d imagine the French challenger, Gemix, is probably the biggest worry.
He won the French Champion Hurdle at Auteuil, a race I rode in. That was over three miles and a furlong and he struck me as a powerful stayer.
My hope now is that he simply won’t have the speed to be totally effective over a trip that is four and a half furlongs shorter.
The conditions of the contest aren’t exactly stacked in favour of Glens Melody, who has a Grade 1 penalty.
But she is a prolific winner and made a more than satisfactory reappearance when scoring at Punchestown last month.
The bottom line is that we like her a lot and will be very disappointed should she not produce a big effort.
Navan will be my focus of attention tomorrow, with the emphasis obviously on Briar Hill in the Grade 1 novice hurdle.
Again there are just four runners, but it has the makings of a cracking race. Very Wood found two miles too short when fifth to The Tullow Tank in the Royal Bond at Fairyhouse and has to be respected.
Apache Stronghold and Azorian renew rivalry, after finishing first and second respectively in a Grade 2 on this track.
Apache Stronghold won easily then, but Azorian did look wayward and green and has to be all the better for the experience.
But, that said, I really like Briar Hill. He’s certainly no Flash Harry, but is just a good horse, to my way of thinking.
It has been well documented the way he works on the gallops. He will come up alongside the worst horse in the yard and do exactly the same against the best.
I’m taking nothing for granted and know this is a good race, but do expect Briar Hill to win, it’s as simple as that.
I kick away on Heathfield for Tony Martin in a 30-runner maiden hurdle, but it is hard to make any sort of case for him.
I fancy Willie’s Sizing Tennessee, who is a dual bumper winner. He did disappoint us in the Cheltenham bumper, but seems to have strengthened up plenty and has schooled well.
I’m on Good As Gold for Pat Fahy in a wide-open handicap hurdle. She’s a mare that likes to be held up — Navan is a good place for that — and has an each-way chance.
I ride Call Me Bubbles for Willie in anothe fiercely competitive handicap hurdle, one of three runners for him.
I could have gone with Supreme Carolina, but Sarabad didn’t enter calculations, because I couldn’t do the weight.
Two and a half miles around Navan will certainly suit Call Me Bubbles and he is clearly not without hope.
My father’s Colbert Station and Paul Nolan’s Noble Prince — I won on him at Thurles last time — are more than useful chasers and both have a life.
I’ll be more than surprised should Willie’s Royal Caviar fail to win the bumper. He’s a gorgeous horse, with a bright future.
By heading to Cheltenhham, I will be missing some live ones of Willie’s at Fairyhouse today, starting with Abbyssial in the first, a three-year-old maiden hurdle.
He will carry the Florida Pearl colours of Archie and Violet O’Leary and is a smasher. I doubt there will a bigger horse in the race and, when I saw him first, thought he was a five-year-old.
He’s had one run in France, taking third over flights at Auteuil in May, and every drop of rain that falls will be in his favour.
Willie’s Upazo is one I flagged here, prior to him winning at Fairyhouse, on the basis his work at home had greatly improved.
That was only two weeks ago, so he hasn’t done a whole lot in the meantime, but continues to please and has to go close in the rated hurdle.
Mozoltov will be hard to beat in a two-mile beginners chase. I rode him the last time he ran, when we beat Don Cossack at Punchestown in February.
I think he was impressive as a hurdler and has schooled especially nicely. He will stay beyond this trip, but it’s a good idea to start him off at two miles, because Mozoltov is capable of taking a tug.
Suntiep does duty for Willie in the three-mile beginners chase and is three from three, twice over hurdles and once in a bumper. The softer the surface the better and I can only describe him as a wonderful jumper.
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