I have a day off today, but there is National Hunt racing at Wexford and Willie’s only runner is Pont De Alma, in the bumper.
She was only fifth on her debut in Cork, in August, and I really don’t know why she ran so badly, because she was certainly working an awful lot better than she ran.
She has a good pedigree —she’s a half-sister to Pont Alexandre — seems in good form, and is still working well enough to win a bumper. She has to have a chance.
My only mount of the weekend is in the opener at Galway tomorrow, in which I ride Jetstream Jack for Gordon Elliott.
He won his bumper at Fairyhouse and Gordon thought enough of him to run him in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham on his next outing.
He disappointed there, but I’d be inclined to forgive that.
For some reason I can’t explain all the Irish horses disappointed in the Cheltenham Bumper. They can’t be as bad as they ran that day. I know our horses didn’t work as badly as they ran, so maybe it was just one of those things.
If Gordon thought Jetstream Jack good enough to run there you’d think he’d be good enough to win a maiden hurdle, and I’d be hopeful this will be his day.
But, it’s a good race, and Noel Meade’s Disko looked smart in his two runs last season. In the second of them he finished runner-up behind one of ours, Bellshill, at Punchestown.
He’s a nice prospect, but it’s getting to that time of the year when the maiden hurdles are getting hot, and there won’t be too many soft ones from now on.
As Jetstream Jack is my only ride of the weekend, he’ll be getting my full focus.
I’ve ridden a few winners for Gordon this season, the most recent of them Miss Dinamic at Thurles on Thursday, and am looking forward to this one. It’s a great ride to get, and he should go very close.
At Leopardstown tomorrow, Willie runs Digeanta in the November Handicap. He got a 4lb penalty for winning the Cesarewitch, in which I thought he got a brilliant ride from Billy Lee.
For me, that was the winning of the race. There was a tape start, which probably helped, he dictated from the front, and wound it up and wound it up.
This race is a furlong shorter, they’re starting out of stalls, and it probably won’t be as easy for him. He’s very consistent and should run his race, but it’s tremendously competitive.
As I’m not in action today, I’ll get a chance to watch the racing from Cheltenham, and the one that interests me most is the Masterson Holdings Hurdle — the best race of the weekend.
It’s all of last season’s juvenile form: you have the Triumph Hurdle third in Hargam against the Fred Winter winner, Qualando, with a few other very useful ones in the mix to give it depth.
I suppose followers of Triumph winner Peace And Co, and Nicky Henderson, who had the first three in that race, will be hoping Hargam can confirm Cheltenham form with Devilment and Stars Over The Sea and account for the Fred Winter winner.
This is a good opportunity to see how good last season’s juvenile form was, and I’d be a Hargam fan, particularly on this ground.
Looking to the season ahead, all the horses in Willie’s are moving along nicely, and all, pretty much, are in full work. We did a lot of schooling yesterday morning, and it went well.
I know I’ve beaten this drum quite a bit over the past few weeks, but we need more rain to crank it up another notch. The sooner it starts raining the better.
There’s some rain due for tomorrow and Monday but it’s not going to be enough. Down Royal hosts its big meeting next weekend but we won’t be mob-handed going there.
We have plenty of new horses for the season ahead and hopefully they’ll compare favourably with those that have come before them.
One that seems to have caught people’s imagination is French import Min, who, I see, is prominent in the betting for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle — a race we won with Douvan last season, Vautour in 2014, and Champagne Fever in 2013.
He’s a fine big, good-looking horse, who has done everything that has been asked of him. But, he hasn’t been asked any serious questions at home and, at this stage, I honestly couldn’t say whether he’s a Supreme or a Neptune horse — or either.
The way the weather is at the moment it’s all very quiet for us, and the next big runner Willie will have will be Max Dynamite in the Melbourne Cup, on Tuesday week.
Let’s hope National Hunt season will be like the Flat!
The Flat season is coming to an end and it’s been another great one for Pat Smullen, Dermot Weld and, it goes without saying, for Aidan O’Brien.
No change there, you might say, but here’s one who is hoping it will also stay the same over jumps!
One thing that does amuse me about the Flat season is the date of the November Handicap. Call me nostalgic, a traditionalist, pedantic, whatever, but I still don’t understand why it takes place in October!
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