Morgiana Hurdle a puzzling treat

THE Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown on Sunday promises to answer some interesting questions.

Chief among them is whether champion hurdler Brave Inca retains all his enthusiasm. He’s had plenty hard races and there is a school which believes the admirable eight-year-old cannot keep delivering.

He had to dig deep to win the Champion Hurdle in March, after Tony McCoy was forced to ask serious questions in the first half of the race.

A couple of weeks later, at Punchestown, Brave Inca was never travelling when beaten a flattering four lengths by Macs Joy.

Cashmans have installed Brave Inca as market-leader and, one imagines, he will go off favourite. But, given a decent surface, highly unlikely, it would be no surprise to see Harchibald take over at the head of the betting.

He has the benefit of a run, but until you know for sure how the ground is going to ride you simply couldn’t entertain him. Indeed, it seems certain, Harchibald won’t even appear if the surface comes up soft.

Another question this could help answer is whether the dual champion, Hardy Eustace, is a light of other days. Certainly, all the most recent evidence indicates he is.

And what about Asian Maze over two miles, if Tom Mullins decides to let her take her chance? The finest mare this country has produced since Dawn Run has always looked best when competing at trips well in excess of the minimum.

Asian Maze was quite spectacular, over two and a half, when beating Hardy Eustace by a whopping 17 lengths in a Grade One at Aintree in April.

This Morgiana could be fascinating and will surely clear up some of the thoughts currently running through our minds.

Mind you the absence of Macs Joy is going to ensure there is no way we are going to complete the jigsaw in the short term.

* I hope Noel Meade gives Mattock Ranger his second outing over fences in the Irish Field Novice Chase at Punchestown on Saturday.

Occasionally a horse gets you all excited, alright mildly excited, and I have been a fan of the six-year-old for a while now.

Fond memories of delightful pay days are usually the cause of most love affairs with horses and he very much fits into that category.

He's been good to me and there is always the danger your judgement can be clouded by sentiment, yeah right!

Backed him at 5-1, he was returned 11-2, first time up over fences at Punchestown last month and he produced a fine exhibition of jumping and staying power.

The form has been working out okay and he can only improve for the outing and for stepping up two furlongs to two miles and six.

Also among the entries is Vic Venturi, who made a good start over fences when beating Conna Castle in a contest which raised more than a few eyebrows at Galway.

Toss in the likes of Mossbank, Letterman, and Ballytrim, how much will he improve for a first pop over fences at Thurles, and you have the ingredients of a cracker.

* SO dear old Dessie popped his clogs this week. Reading the Racing Post on Tuesday, you’d have thought a head of state had died rather than a racehorse. It really was a load of old rubbish.

My own personal memory of Desert Orchid is the amount of money he cost me when landing the Gold Cup in 1989.

I had written many times he would never win a Gold Cup and, so sick of reading it was then Sports Editor Tom Aherne that he asked just how confident was I that it was a non-starter, as we faced into the Festival.

Of course, I offered to take out the entire sports desk, four of them I think it was at the time, for a night’s drinking if it ever happened.

We met at around 8pm in Riverstown and the rules were that you could only drink pints. I knew they had big mouths, but didn’t quite realise the extent of the gobs. God, could they slug.

Several hours later and a hundred quid lighter — you’d get a lot of drink for that amount of money 17 years ago — we staggered from the hostelry. Another twenty quid for fish and chips and back to Aherne’s to tackle his brandy.

It was actually a bloody great night and, thankfully, unlike Dessie, all the participants are still flying and cruising on credit. Here’s to you Dessie, me old grey pal.

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