Relative calm before the storm for me, with just five rides across the weekend, but it’s a very important time for the stable.
For many punters, the most interesting part of the on-course action will be the traditional pre-Cheltenham workouts after racing at Leopardstown tomorrow.
Willie’s plans are fluid with regard to this, but I believe he’s most interested in working some of the chasers at the track. If that’s the case, it could be a very informative session.
The next fortnight is nail-biting time, and the last thing I want to see is Willie Mullins’ name popping up on the phone at four o’clock in the afternoon, because I’ll be fearing the worst.
We’ve had a share of bad luck with Faugheen, Arctic Fire and Killultagh Vic, and don’t want any more names added to that list.
Getting back to this week’s action, I’ve picked up a grand spare ride on Tuzo in the two-mile maiden hurdle at Navan.
I think it’s fair to say he was a bit disappointing last time, behind Fairly Legal, but he did win a bumper, beating a horse, Robin Thyme, which I since rode to win a maiden hurdle.
That’s decent form and if he can reproduce an effort like that, he should go close.
The one we all have to fear is General Principle, who looked so good when winning his bumper at Punchestown, beating one of ours, Prince D’Aubrelle, which won three times afterwards.
Clearly all hasn’t been right with him since he finished in midfield in the Cheltenham Bumper, but would be the one to beat if back in top form.
Rolly Baby, in the beginners’ chase, is my only other ride of the day and he must have strong claims in what looks an ordinary race.
He ran well for a long way on his seasonal debut at Limerick over Christmas, and should strip fitter this time.
His jumping is good, he has been working quite well at home and, although no spring chicken, looks my best chance of the weekend.
Willie runs Bel Sas in the bumper. He finished runner-up on his only start in a point to point, and has been working well for us recently.
He should be good enough to account for his five rivals.
Bryan Cooper is suspended so I have the opportunity to ride the Gigginstown House-owned Potters Point in the first race at Leopardstown tomorrow.
The form of his maiden hurdle debut (third behind Woodland Opera and Coney Island) looks strong, although if I had to sound a note of caution for punters, I’d say he looked a winner going to the last hurdle that day and yet finished only third.
But, he has always been a good work horse, jumps well, and should appreciate the dry week we’ve had, as he doesn’t want deep winter ground.
Obvious danger Space Cadet has been struggling to make the breakthrough over hurdles, so we’re hopeful of getting the day off to a good start.
Beau Mome runs in his first handicap. He has been unbelievably disappointing as we thought he was very good, but has been beaten a long way on all three starts for us.
That has resulted in a mark of 117, and all I can say about that is that if he ever brought what he shows us at home to the track he would be remarkably well treated.
However, it’s what happens on the track which counts and it’s hard to be sure what to expect this time.
Willie runs two in the Foxrock Cup Hurdle, and I’m on So Young, who hasn’t run in more than one thousand days.
The last time he ran it was off a mark of more than 150 but it’s hard to think he can run to that level now.
He has been working well, but the other horse, Great Field, should be a bit more forward than him.
He has been in training longer than So Young, has won twice in France and, although I haven’t ridden him too many times, he goes well at home. He should go very well.
Ruby Walsh will feature as one of our special guests at The Everyman in Cork on Thursday, March 3 when the Irish Examiner presents ‘Inside the Sporting Mind’, a unique gathering of Examiner sports writers and columnists.
The evening features Liam Brady in conversation with Liam Mackey, O’Gara face-to-face with Donal Lenihan and Ruby Walsh with Tommy Lyons.
These will be followed by a panel discussion.
The event starts @ 8pm.
Tickets are on sale for €25 each. Visit everymancork.com for details.
During the week I was reading about the Grand National weights and handicapper Phil Smith using ‘the Aintree factor’ to get some horses into the race.
Effectively he increased the mark of these horses to one which he believes should ensure they get into the bottom of the handicap.
Three horses, in total, have had theirs marks raised, most notably Becher Chase winner Highland Lodge and Alvarado, who have each been upped by 6lbs.
I understand this is at the discretion of the handicapper, but I think it is entirely wrong.
This is a million-pound race, after all, and you should have to earn the right to run in such a race, not earn it at the whim of the assessor.
If the ‘Aintree factor’ is that important, why not have the Becher Chase as a ‘win and you’re in’ race, and let the winner run off its official mark.
The National is a handicap and the best 40 horses should be allowed to take their places. Imagine being an owner whose horse was one of those which missed out because of one of the horses which had their mark adjusted.
I think you’d be entitled to be fairly miffed.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved