THE million dollar question at Listowel today is can I win my fourth Kerry National?
I partner Northern Alliance for Tony Martin and believe he has a very good chance, in what is a typically wide-open contest.
I love riding horses with winter form, in summer races, and Northern Alliance certainly falls into that category.
His last run was in the Galway Hurdle and two miles over hurdles is way too short for him at this stage of the game.
That said, he ran a fine race to fill fourth behind Bahrain Storm. There is no denying he has his share of weight, off 11-2, but is a big horse and capable of carrying it.
I suppose there are some doubts regarding his ability to stay three miles. You can never be sure, until they go and do it, but I’m reasonably confident that won’t be an issue.
Don’t forget he ran a fine race in the Jewson Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
Northern Alliance was fourth to Chapoturgeon and was showing no signs of stopping at the end of two miles and five. As well, I won a Kerry National on Euro Leader and he didn’t truly get three miles.
The inside track will play to my lad’s strengths and the drying ground, let’s hope that continues, is another plus.
What of the opposition? Ponmeoath clearly loves the place, having won for the last two years, but faces a hard task.
Royal County Star is a winner of a Troytown at Navan and clearly has a life and is another strong challenger for Tony Martin.
Star Of Germany is smart and has to respected, representing David Pipe. His beating of Hoo La Baloo and Backstage at Newton Abbot was a good effort, but is summer form!
Paco Jack is on the upgrade and an improving novice, but with success comes an inevitable rise in the weights.
Knock On The Head could never go the pace in the Galway Plate and I just wonder how well suited he will be by the inside track now!
I’ve got off Bothar Na and it is never easy leaving one of Willie Mullins’ behind.
I know Bothar Na has been struggling for a while but his recent work, over the last two weeks, has been very good.
I’m on Dual Gales in the novice hurdle and have to say this looks a really hot contest of its type for September.
To my way of thinking it’s a three-way war between my horse, Berties Dream and Glenstal Abbey.
I’d say there’s only one good jump between them, that’s how close I feel they are matched. Dual Gales is working and looking well.
I’m hoping, obviously, to emerge on top, but think if the race was run again on Friday the result could be different!
Miss Abrahnovic’s prospects are hardly clear-cut in the maiden hurdle. I rode her last time, when she made no show at Cork.
I got too far back that day and the water on the track was so bad neither the mare or myself could see anything.
It would be a brave shout to say she might win, but Miss Abrahnovic will definitely perform a lot better.
I expect a decent effort from Keelaghan in the handicap chase. He was a bit disappointing at Ballinrobe, but may not have been at his best that day.
Tony Martin’s horses weren’t firing then, but seemed to be in great order here on Sunday.
Right, before I sign off for a little while, a brief word about some of those who will be occupying our minds in this column in the coming months.
I was at Paul Nicholls’ Open Day recently and saw Master Minded, Kauto Star, Denman and Big Buck’s.
They look smashing and, I can tell you now, there are some right dark ones as well to keep us more than happy.
All of Willie Mullins’ stars are back in, the likes of Mikael d’Haguenet, Hurricane Fly, Cousin Vinny and Cooldine.
They look great and, I’d say, are right where Willie wants them right now. I just pray for them to stay sound, because it has the makings of a mouth-watering winter.
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