Ruby Walsh is more worried about Djakadam having had only three runs over fences rather than the fact that he is only a five-year-old going into Saturday’s Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury.
No horse so young has ever won the prestigious race, but Walsh rewrote the history books on the Paul Nicholls-trained Master Minded who won the Queen Mother Champion Chase in 2008 when just five.
Trained by Willie Mullins, Djakadam was last seen falling in the JLT Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, on just his third outing over fences, and he runs off a mark of 142, having won his first two starts last season.
It is that, rather than his age, that Walsh feels the red-hot favourite needs to overcome.
Speaking in his blog for Paddy Power, Walsh said: “The pundits are saying that Djakadam can’t win the Hennessy Gold Cup on Saturday because he’s only a five-year-old.
“A bigger worry for me is that he has just three runs over fences and is inexperienced for a race like this.”
David Pipe expects Ballynagour to run with honour, as long as his stamina holds out.
The eight-year-old claimed the Byrne Group Plate at the Cheltenham Festival in March and was second to Sizing Europe at Punchestown a month later.
Ballynagour has, however, never been campaigned over the Hennessy’s extended three-and-a-quarter-mile trip, so will be taking a shot into the unknown.
The Nicholashayne handler told www.davidpipe.com: ““He seems very well at home and Tom Scudamore was in schooling him the other day.
“Fingers crossed our Festival winner, if getting the trip, should run well.”
Neil Mulholland has given the green light for The Druids Nephew to run at the weekend.
The seven-year-old won easily at Huntingdon on his debut for Mulholland, and then stepped up on that by finishing second to Sam Winner in the Murphy Group Handicap Chase.
His handicap mark has subsequently risen from 132 to 147 but Mulholland is not too worried on that front.
There had been a possibility of waiting for the Coral Welsh National but The Druids Nephew will definitely run at Newbury.
“He’s got a nice racing weight, he worked this (Tuesday) morning and went really well, he’s in good form.
“I’m very happy with him so we’ll have a go,” said Mulholland.
Meanwhile, Annie Power may face fellow mare Little King Robin in the Bar One Racing Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse on Sunday.
Trainer Colin Bowe had originally ruled out running his stable star in the Grade One over two and a half miles in the aftermath of her creditable third in the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown.
That was her first defeat in five outings, with Bowe’s original plan to give Little King Robin a break before running her against her own sex at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting.
But with the rest of the opposition seemingly running scared of Annie Power, Bowe could be tempted to let the six-year-old take her chance at Fairyhouse.
Annie Power and Little King Robin are two of only seven remaining possibles at the five-day stage.
Gordon Elliott’s Triumph Hurdle winner Tiger Roll, pulled up when last seen, is also in the mix.
Annie Power’s stablemate Zaidpour is another contender for the all-conquering Willie Mullins operation.
Jessica Harrington’s Jetson, who lowered Quevega’s colours on his last start in May, is another top-class stayer in the mix.
The Sandra Hughes-trained Lieutenant Colonel, last sighted over fences at Naas at the beginning of the month, and King Of The Picts from Pat Shanahan’s yard complete the list.
Noel Meade reports Apache Stronghold ready to step up in grade over fences in the Bar One Racing Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse on Sunday.
The six-year-old had a restricted last season over hurdles due to injury but made a highly promising debut over larger obstacles at Down Royal late last month.
The Co Meath trainer told At The Races.”He’s been to Navan and jumped a full round of the track with a couple of others and that seemed to go very well. We’re very happy with him.
“It’s all systems go and onwards and upwards, we hope.
“The way it is in those winners’ races, whether it’s Grade Three or Grade One, it’s nearly the same horses you’re running into anyway.
“The next step is going to be up, one way or the other.
“He jumped well (at Down Royal) but no never know until you put pressure on in these races as it’s a hot year for novice chasers.”
Apache Stronghold was among 17 horses left in the two-and-a-half-mile Grade One contest at the confirmation stage.
Willie Mullins has four possibles in Alelchi Inois, Perfect Gentleman, Valseur Lido and Un Atout, who has been off the track since winning the Champion Novice Hurdle at Punchestown in April 2013.
The Tullow Tank is an interesting contender for Kildare trainer Sandra Hughes, who took over the licence on the recent death of her father, Dessie.
Mouse Morris is triple-handed with Band Of Blood, Real Steel and Allied Victory.
Completing a strong line-up are Aerlite Supreme, Azorian, Blacklough, Cause Of Causes, Empire Of Dirt, Followmeuptocarlow, Sadler’s Risk and Le Vent D’Antan.
Allez Colombieres could make his debut for Willie Mullins in Sunday’s Bar One Racing Royal Bond Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse.
Bought in France for Rich Ricci after winning three of his four bumpers, the four-year-old is already prominent in the betting for the Cheltenham novice events in March.
If Mullins decides not to give him his first taste of Irish racing in Grade One company, the champion trainer could still rely on Nichols Canyon or Max Dynamite.
Gordon Elliott’s exciting No More Heroes will be a tough nut to crack, however, having looked impressive to date this season.
Dermot Weld’s Tandem is another with a bright future, while Aidan O’Brien could run Draco.
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