Extremely testing ground is the greatest certainty on today’s card at Listowel, but the nap goes to Okotoks, in the MSD Animal Health Maiden Hurdle.
The Tony Martin-trained five-year-old hasn’t been seen since winning a bumper at Down Royal in May, but is sure to be ready for his return to this discipline. On his only previous start over hurdles, he contested a maiden at the Christmas meeting at Leopardstown, and ran really well to finish third behind Identity Thief and Snow Falcon. With the winner now rated 137 and the runner-up 143, it was clearly a smart effort.
Ruby Walsh, who rode him that day, is on board once more, and the partnership can prove too sharp for another very promising sort, Tully East. The latter finished runner-up to Identity Thief in a Fairyhouse bumper last November, and filled the same position behind Hurry Henry last time.
He hasn’t been seen since early January and lacks an outing over obstacles, but has real potential, and must be respected.
In the Kerry National, marginal preference is for Lots Of Memories, who appeals as one not fully exposed over fences.
The eight-year-old has had just seven runs over the larger obstacles, winning once, on testing ground at Navan late last year. However, he has run very well on most of those outings, including when not disgraced in third place behind Don Poli in the Grade 1 Topaz Novice Chase at Leopardstown. His last run over fences came in the Irish National, in which he never really travelled and was eventually pulled up. In the first of two runs this season he finished a close third behind High Secret in a flat race at Killarney and more recently finished third behind Waaheb, over hurdles at Roscommon.
Those efforts should have put him spot on for today’s race and, with testing ground conditions no great concern and enough stamina to get home over three miles, he looks set for a big run.
He is just preferred to Rule The World, who was still going well when slipping up between the last two fences in the Galway Plate. Like the selection, he has no issue with the going or the trip, but is also well-in relative to his hurdling mark, and has the assistance of David Mullins.
Long Dog is clearly the one to beat in the four-runner Ballygarry House Hotel Novice Hurdle. Unbeaten in two starts over hurdles this season, he had one of today’s rivals, Adimelo, well behind when winning at Galway on his most recent outing. His jumping wasn’t foot-perfect but certainly better than he had shown when winning at Sligo on his previous run.
With further improvement anticipated, and an ability to handle the ground evidenced by his flat victory at Sligo, when trained by Andy Oliver, he should complete his hat-trick.
Adimelo was quite well fancied in the aforementioned Galway race but he ran a long way below form. If that was only a blip he could push the selection hard, and being in receipt of 5lbs aids his cause.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved