“The horse is one hundred per cent and leaves from Dublin at 2.00 this afternoon”, reported Mangan. “I’m praying First Gold stays in the race. My horse has gone up 15lbs since last year and weight will be his biggest problem.”
First Gold, on top of the handicap with 11-12, 5lbs above Monty’s Pass, has been declared to run in the Martell Cognac Cup Chase at the opening stage of Aintree today.
“Only Bobbyjo, who was raised 20lbs, has gone up more than my horse for winning the National in the last 25 years”, said Mangan.
“On any other course, Monty’s Pass would have no chance. But he’s a different horse at Aintree, he loves it over there.”
Mangan has given his charge a typical preparation, two outings over flights, at Gowran Park and Naas.
Indeed, Monty’s Pass showed some real sparkle at Naas last time when eighth of 14 behind Zum See. “He’s had one schooling session, at Tramore”, said Mangan. “Tom Lombard, who rode him before last year’s race, was on board that day.
“He told me the same as he did a year ago, he’s in great shape, don’t do any more with him in case something happens.”
Mangan, ever the realist, knows this could well be a bridge too far for his star. “It will be off the rails for him to win again, but it’s not impossible.”
Meanwhile those holding tasty ante-post vouchers on Ballydoyle’s One Cool Cat for the English 2000 Guineas will take more than a passing interest in the reappearance of Wathab in Sunday’s Loughbrown Stakes at the Curragh.
Wathab ended his juvenile campaign with a length second to One Cool Cat in the Group One National Stakes at headquarters in September. That was actually his tenth run of the season and you’d wonder just how much improvement is in him?
What makes the horse even more interesting, however, is the fact he is now in the care of Dermot Weld. He remains in the same ownership, having been trained by Kevin Prendergast in 2003. Why he was moved from one handler to another is a mystery. Certainly, at his open-day recently, Weld was giving nothing whatsoever away on that particular subject.
A year ago, Beef Or Salmon, following from that much-publicised tumble in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, arrived at the Curragh to win the Peter Byrne Kildare Race over two miles and is due to try again on Sunday. He went off a heavily-backed 11-10 favourite then and duly outclassed no less than 27 rivals.
It was the best betting race of the day, with the layers holding in excess of €175,000.
Beef Or Salmon should be in far better shape on this occasion, fresh from a creditable fourth behind best Mate at Cheltenham.
It could, however, be a much more competitive contest than last year. Michael Hourigan’s charge is still only rated 78 on the level.
Among the entries is Aidan O’Brien’s Handel and he has a rating of 107.
A further Ballydoyle possibility is the once-raced Excalibur. Remember him? A son of Danehill, he made a belated debut at the Curragh last October in a 26-runner affair. Taken from 11-8 to evens, he absolutely bolted in by a whopping 15 lengths.
On the subject of Ballydoyle, haven’t their horses made some start to the season. Many of us felt there might be a difficult few months ahead, with a new jockey and, possibly, below-par three-year-olds. But they have simply flown out of the blocks and practically every horse O’Brien has run has performed well.
Certainly, there has been no hanging about and it has been straight down to business. Of course, it is far too early to be drawing any conclusions, but you would have to say the early portents are encouraging.
Hard to get a few quid at this game! Take the opener at Leopardstown last Sunday, a three-year-old maiden.
Heard on the grapevine that Tommy Stack’s newcomer, Enfield Chase, was well-regarded and getting favourable mention with stable companion, Tolpuddle, the winner of the Irish Lincoln the week before.
Time to shake hands with morning prices in an effort to get someone else to pay for the ‘well-earned’ summer-break.
From what I can gather 8-1 was on offer in a place, 6’s certainly was and getting 4-1 and 7-2 was a doddle.
If only half the word about Enfield Chase was right then the each-way was a bet to nothing. Enfield Chase opened 3-1 on track and was duly backed down to 2’s.
He ran well, but was beaten half a length by Eddie Lynam’s 14-1 chance, Gilberto. No profit and the thought of oneself having to pay for the break was a trifle depressing.
But then to discover Lynam gave his horse no chance and had actually told the owners of Gilberto to back Stack’s was enough, almost, to drive you to drink!