NEWBURY this afternoon is all about two horses, Master Minded and Denman.
In normal circumstances I’d be aboard both, but of course Tony McCoy takes over on Denman, because I’ve decided to stick with Kauto Star in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Let’s start with Master Minded in the Grade 2 Game Spirit Chase. He is certainly on a retrieving mission, having been terribly disappointing when only third behind Well Chief at Cheltenham back in the middle of November.
It subsequently transpired Master Minded was suffering from a rib injury and was on the easy-list for a fair while. He’s back in pretty strong work of late, however, and I schooled him about ten days ago.
I like the shape of the contest and the fact Fix The Rib and Voy Por Ustedes are likely to carry us along at a fair old slip. That means I should be able to sit in a bit.
The reality, though, is that this is a very big day in the life of Master Minded and he has a lot to prove. He may be in fine shape at home, but you simply never know, following an injury, just how good they are until going out onto the racecourse.
People often say he has never reproduced what he did when destroying the field in the two-mile Champion Chase at Cheltenham two years ago.
But I have never been carried away with that display. My distinct memory is they just went too fast, got drunk and he kept going.
At the moment I’m torn between Master Minded, who is under a cloud until he tells us otherwise, and Twist Magic, who is in the form of his life, for the Champion Chase next month.
What I really want is for Master Minded to make it easy and go and win on the bridle today. One lives in hope.
I partner Tricky Trickster in the Aon Chase and it won’t seem that strange going out to ride one against Denman.
After all, I’ve had a rear view of him on more than one occasion in the past and will be shocked if I’m not set for more of the same.
I’d be telling lies if I said I’m not disappointed to be missing out on him, but the worst aspect of any race is when you feel you have no chance of winning. If Tricky Trickster, who is being geared at the Grand National at Aintree, scores it will be a miracle.
I start on Inchidaly Rock in the novice chase and he faces stiff opposition in Diamond Harry and Bensalem. My lad could have gone to Plumpton on Monday for a relatively soft race, but there was really no point to that.
Paul Nicholls and I need to find out more about Inchidaly Rock, whether he’s a SunAlliance or a four mile horse, or neither.
He won at Cheltenham and Exeter and then fell at the ninth behind Taranais, back at Cheltenham. He went far too early to know where we might have finished, but I’m hoping for a big effort today.
I’ve been reading Takeroc has been a gamble for the Totesport Trophy and that surprises me. I know he came home reasonably well when fifth at Cheltenham on his reappearance, but I wasn’t as impressed as others seemed to be.
This is a savagely competitive race and those sticking their necks out and backing him, to my mind, have more money than sense!
Tito Bustillo has won nicely twice of late at Taunton and is improving. I know Nicky Henderson’s Bellvano has a big reputation, but I think Tito will rattle him.
I know nothing of Al Ferof, other than he was impressive when winning at Fairyhouse by ten lengths for Liz Doyle, but am looking forward to getting a feel of him in the Bumper.
I have fives rides for Willie Mullins at Navan tomorrow and have to be optimistic of getting among the winners.
First up is Kerb Appeal in a maiden hurdle, which I thought, looking at it yesterday morning, might not take too much winning.
Kerb Appeal won a bumper at Navan by 17 lengths, having got chinned at Cork prior to that. He’s clearly going forward and schooled nicely at Willie’s during the week.
Mourad has plenty to find at the weights in the Grade 2 Boyne Hurdle, being 9lbs wrong with Ebadiyan. But I wonder if Ebadiyan is now flattered by his new mark, having surprised Muirhead at Naas and going up by 18lbs.
Anyway, I was more than happy with Mourad at Punchestown, where he won by ten lengths. Hopefully, it will be onwards and upwards for him from now on.
Cadspeed has been second three times in-a-row and tries again in a two mile maiden hurdle. To me this horses is just an enigma.
Perhaps, two miles and three was too far when Case Study was too good for him at Naas the last day. Maybe, I’m grasping at straws, but he really is far superior to what he has shown so far over hurdles on the track.
Uimhiraceathair surprised Willie and myself when winning at the first time of asking over fences at Gowan Park on Thyestes Day and attempts to make it two from two in a novice chase.
The reason we didn’t overly fancy him then was due to the dreadful ground and I still believe he will be a better horse on a better surface.
You couldn’t fault what he did at Gowran and stepping up to three miles shouldn’t present a problem, after all he scored at that trip over flights at Fairyhouse. He’s surely one of my best rides of the weekend.
Shakervilz, a wonderful little jumper, rounds off the two days in another novice chase. Like Uimhiraceathair, he too won over fences on his debut at Leopardstown.
He was a stayer over hurdles and two miles is on the short side, but that may well be balanced by this stiff track.