Livelovelaugh, one of six runners this weekend for Willie, can get us off to a winning start, in the two-and-a-half-mile beginners’ chase at Cork this afternoon.

He’s a burly, stuffy individual, who always looks heavy, and takes plenty of work. He will have improved greatly for his first outing, at Fairyhouse, where he was passed late by a couple of Gordon’s runners.

He jumped well that day, and his work has been good since. He took a run or two to reach his peak last year, he handles testing ground well, and I think he is more than up to winning today.

Squadron Commander, who runs in the bumper, is an unraced horse, who goes well enough without catching pigeons — but they can often be the better ones. He looks like he stays well, and seems to be in good form, so hopefully he will go well.

We have four on tomorrow’s card at Naas, and two of them, Next Destination and Duc Des Genievres, run in the Grade One novice hurdle.

The turn of foot Next Destination showed when winning on his hurdling debut at Naas surprised me.

Watching his work at home, you wouldn’t think that was in him, and I rode him in the Cheltenham Bumper and didn’t think he possessed that sort of turn of pace. But the step up to two and a half miles and going over hurdles has brought out another gear in him.

He’s not a flashy horse at home. He wasn’t burning up the gallops going to Naas, and certainly wasn’t burning them up going to Navan, and it’s pretty much the same now. But he looks well, is plenty fit enough, and his two performances have been very taking. Obviously, Samcro not turning up here makes his task an awful lot easier, and he should be very difficult to beat.

Our other horse, Duc Des Genievres, won a hurdle in France in May, which means he is still a novice. It’s a fair ask for him to go straight in to a Grade One on his first start for us, but there weren’t many options. It’s a bit of a fact-finding mission, but he’s a fine big horse, who works well.

He can go well, and offer plenty of encouragement for the future but, hopefully, Next Destination will enhance his Cheltenham credentials.

Demi Sang is another who makes his debut for us, and does so in the novice chase.

He had a good few runs over hurdles in France, and managed to win once, but has won his two starts over fences, and is a novice this year.

He’s a sharp horse, so the two-mile trip should suit him. He seems to go really well at home, but it’s always interesting to watch French chasers first time over Irish fences. They can be very quick through the air, as French fences are quite soft compared to ours. Naas is a good place to start, and it will be interesting to see how he gets on.

Avenir D’Une Vie is likely to make the pace. He was going a really good gallop in the race won by Footpad at Christmas, until he head-butted a fence and gave Jack Kennedy no chance to keep the partnership intact. Our horse goes well, but Avenir D’une Vie will take some following.

Asthuria was a little disappointing on her chasing debut, at Thurles, but she may have needed the run a bit more than we thought she would. She hasn’t missed a day since that run, is in good order, and her jumping and style of racing will be suited to this track. She will take beating.

Looking back, for a moment, at the Christmas racing, if you’re looking for a dark one for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, I think Anibale Fly could be worth a shout.

The Gold Cup picture became very murky over Christmas.

No horse stood out, and I thought Anibale Fly’s performance in the Paddy Power Chase, with the weight he had, was terrific. He also had very good form as a novice, and Tony Martin’s horses are starting to come back in to form. As they progress, you could see him improving more.

And, he’s not unlike his owner JP McManus’s Gold Cup winner, Synchronised, who won competitive handicaps before developing in to a Gold Cup horse. Before Anibale Fly goes to Leopardstown, he could be worth a small bet in the Gold Cup, with the non-runner, no bet concession.

Also in relation the Christmas festivals in Ireland, something which cropped up this week in the British press was the calls for something similar in the UK.

If Britain is to have to a meeting like Ireland does in Leopardstown, I think the pattern committee may need to step in, to ensure there no new races are created.

If they wanted to amalgamate what they already have, spread over Christmas and the new year, that would be fine. They already have all the races you need for a festival — the likes of the Kempton features and the Challow Hurdle, Tolworth Hurdle, the Finale Hurdle for juveniles, the Dipper Novice Chase, the Relkeel Hurdle, the Long Walk Hurdle, the Welsh National, the Rowland Meyrick from Wetherby, the listed Mares’ race from Taunton, and the big handicap hurdle from Ascot.

The races are there, they’re just spread out from December 23 to January 6. If they amalgamated them, for one big festival, it wouldn’t be damaging to racing as a whole, but if they create a whole new programme, with new races, it would dilute everything else.

They did it during the foot and mouth — they created a new two-mile chase at Sandown, which is now a Grade One. As a result, in the one week in April you now have the Grade One two-mile chase in Punchestown, which was always there, and the new Grade One race in Sandown which is only there a couple of years. You’re looking to the same pool of horses and, as a result, it has diluted both.

If they want to repackage them and put them in a festival the equivalent of Leopardstown, that would work, though I’d imagine there would probably be war if they tried to take races from the different tracks to run at one venue.

Regardless, making new races is not the way forward.


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