Ground a major concern for Coffee Tea Or Me

I went to Punchestown yesterday hoping to win three Grade 1’s, but had to settle for two.

Master Minded didn’t travel or jump with his usual zest, but I won’t have it that he was lucky. You don’t win, if you don't jump.

I’m told there was evens available afterwards about him winning next year’s Champion Chase. My advice is to lump on.

Hurricane Fly was unbelievable and will be a big player in next year’s Champion Hurdle. I gave him a bad ride and got knocked down everywhere, but he still won in a canter.

Cooldine had been working great, but was as flat as a pancake out on the track. We can safely put a line through this.

I will sum up my five rides today by describing them as a series of ifs, buts and maybes!

Let’s start with Coffee Tea Or Me in the four-year-old hurdle. He’s the best in the race and will win, if handling the ground.

But I have a feeling the soft surface may well be a big inconvenience. The ground was good when he was second to The Fist Of God at Fairyhouse last time.

Prior to that it was on the good side as well when he won at Cork. And, of course, his only success on the flat came on the all-weather at Dundalk.

In any case, whatever his fate today, I have a feeling Coffee could well develop into a live Galway Hurdle candidate.

I’m on Palace Merano in the three mile novice hurdle and he’s a good, tough sort, who comes here on the back of hard-fought wins at Navan and Thurles.

He will love the trip and the ground, but I’ll be pleasantly surprised should he prove capable of beating Willie Mullins’ other horse, The Midnight Club.

Emmet Mullins always rides him and the partnership is maintained. The Midnight Club had a smashing run at Cheltenham, third behind Weapons Amnesty and the horse I rode, Pride Of Dulcote.

That was a really good performance and he will be hard to beat. I saw him working on Monday and he seemed to be suffering no ill-effects, following his Cheltenham exertions.

The big race of the week is the Guinness Gold Cup and, as I told you yesterday, I have gone for Scotsirish.

After he finished fourth behind Voy Por Ustedes at Aintree, Willie Mullins and I agreed that this was the logical next step.

Most pundits, I suppose, will conclude he won’t stay, but I’m not totally convinced that will be the case.

He won at the meeting a year ago, defying top weight to take a handicap over two miles and five.

That was encouraging, although we have to accept it came on good ground. The problem with this race, though, is you can make a case for so many of them.

It is so competitive. You are not dealing with outstanding horses, but there are good horses involved.

When it comes to attempting to find the likely winner, I’ll sit this one out.

J’y Vole is on something of a retrieving mission in a two and a half mile handicap chase.

She is a tall mare, well up to carrying 11-1 and, if back to her best, would be thrown into this.

But she was most disappointing at Gowran Park, fading badly to finish a remote fourth behind Battle Axe.

If J’y Vole returned to the form which saw her slam Big Zeb at Leopardstown last season, then I’d be making a major case for her.

But the mare’s home work at the moment is a trifle lacklustre and she just lacks sparkle. Mind you, stepping up to two and a half miles will be a help and I hope she comes alive on the track.

And then there’s Jayo in the novice chase. This is the way I would sum him up, he was very good at Naas, flopped at Leopardstown and ordinary at Fairyhouse.

On the credit side, he did jump well at Fairyhouse the last day for Barry Geraghty and didn’t fancy it in front when I rode him that way at Leopardstown.

The ground and trip will be no problem, but it is hard to be overly confident when he is a bit in-and-out.

One thing about which I have little doubt, however, is that he’s the best horse in the race.

Yesterday morning, I was back at Willie's and rode a load of work. One of those I sat on was Cheltenham hero, Mikael d’Haguenet, and he’s in good shape for later in the week.


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