From Willie Mullins’ point of view, Allaho in the Beginners’ Chase and Jon Snow and The Big Getaway in the maiden hurdles are the key horses this weekend. They’re horses we expect to win, but they’re also horses we would have hoped would have won by now and be going to the Dublin Racing Festival as novices rather than to a beginners’ chase and maidens this weekend.
Unfortunately, they were all beaten last time, but I expect them all to win this weekend and hopefully enhance their reputations. Earlier in the year, I thought Jon Snow was one of our better novices but he’s after getting beaten twice. The Big Getaway was unlucky at Leopardstown at Christmas, and I think Allaho has improved fitness-wise from Leopardstown.
The Solerina Novices’ Hurdle on this afternoon’s card in Fairyhouse is a race Willie has won in the past with some very good mares, the likes of Limini and Laurina, and it has been a very good guide to the mares’ novice hurdle at Cheltenham.
We run three very strong fillies today. Colreevy improved from her run at Cork to win at Limerick, while Yukon Lil bolted up on her first start of the season, as did Dolcita. It may have been a surprise to some that Paul is riding Yukon Lil, but it wasn’t a great surprise to me. I thought, from watching them all, that she was most impressive visually. That said, she did disappoint on occasion in bumpers last season, but Paul is going on what he felt.
Dolcita was very good in Tramore but it was probably the weakest of the races the three won last time, and she had experience jumping from her time in France. Whether there’ll be as much improvement in her, I don’t know. Colreevy had the strongest bumper form, so I don’t envy Paul in having to choose but he’s gone for Yukon Lil and I wouldn’t disagree with him.
Over in Cheltenham, Paisley Park takes on If The Cap Fits and Summerville Bay in the Cleeve Hurdle. It’s a very interesting race, more so when you look back to Gowran and consider the performance of Benie Des Dieux.
Will Willie be tempted to go for the Stayers Hurdle with her? Maybe what he sees in Cheltenham today might help sway him one way or the other. I think Paisley Park is one of the best horses in training, I think he’ll win again today and will be very hard to beat in the Stayers’ Hurdle.
Tomorrow in Naas, Willie starts off with Franco De Port and Stormy Ireland in the Limestone Lad Hurdle. Franco ran no race at Limerick last time, and I don’t think that’s a fair reflection of his ability, but this is another step up.
Stormy Ireland, on the other hand, sets the standard. She has been rock-solid this year and I think she has the pace to be competitive at two miles. She’ll be hard to beat.
Willie runs Carefully Selected and Small Farm in the Grade 3 novice chase. Small Farm was in the process of running a big race until falling in the beginners’ chase on New Year’s Eve, but this is a different ball game altogether.
It’s a quick reappearance for Carefully Selected but I think Willie is keen to have a crack at the National Hunt Chase with him and so he has to finish in the first four today. He had an easy race in Punchestown, as an eight-year-old he has a bit of age on his side, and he should be able to pull out quickly.
Stones And Roses runs in the novice handicap chase and this longer trip will suit him better than the two-one did at Limerick. The ground may have been a bit soft for him there too, so he should run a better race this time and 123 doesn’t look that unreasonable a mark.
Willie has Billaway and Casey Jem in the Hunters’ Chase. Billaway ran a blinder in Down Royal and we think he is improving the whole time. If he could finish in the first few tomorrow that will qualify him for the Foxhunters Chase at Cheltenham. Casey Jem is a complete unknown to us. He goes well enough at home, but I don’t think Patrick had that difficult a choice.