Work continues apace at Willie’s yard as the load on the winter horses increases but, as anticipated, it’s still relatively quiet with regard to entries.
Today’s meeting at Down Royal is a case in point, as we have no runners, though it was great to get on the scoresheet with Listen Dear yesterday afternoon.
It’s a shame not to have something to run in the JNWine Champion Chase — the first Grade 1 of the season — but it would be a big ask taking on Don Cossack half-ready.
Today’s race is all about him. He has a stone in hand of Rocky Creek, who has six pounds in hand of the one I ride, Roi Du Mee, with Texas Jack with even more to find.
Don Cossack took the sight out of my eye when he won at Punchestown, and he’s going to strip fitter today.
Truth be known, he doesn’t need to as he has the class and ability to beat what are essentially good Grade 2 and not Grade 1 horses.
He won the second-season novices’ chase on this card last year and, barring accidents, will win again.
Where he’ll go from here I don’t know, but he’s a horse who enjoys a bit of better ground, will improve as the season goes on, and I’m sure we’ll have to take him on along the way.
For now, though, he can be another winner for Gordon Elliott, Gigginstown and Bryan Cooper.
Roi Du Mee is a good, honest horse who won this in 2013, but, realistically, is up against it.
I start off on Improver, for Tony Martin, in the maiden hurdle.
I rode him at Tipperary and he ran okay for a long way, but will have to improve.
He should definitely have come forward fitness-wise, having run on the flat on Sunday, but Space Cadet and De Name Escapes Me look the obvious ones to beat.
My one will be an each-way price and definitely has an each-way chance.
I have no ride in the novice chase but it should be a cracker.
Paul Nicholls, who runs Ptit Zig, won the race plenty of times but Gordon Elliott broke that sequence last year, and can follow up with Clarcam.
There’s nothing between the two on the book but Clarcam has a run under his belt, and that could prove the difference.
I ride another for Tony Martin — Wrong Turn — in the handicap chase, and, realistically, he’s my best chance of a winner today.
He had a run in Listowel, after a long lay-off, and should strip a whole lot fitter this time. It’s a competitive race, without being an outstanding one, and I think he has a great chance.
I’m in Naas for two rides tomorrow, starting with Alelchi Inois in the Poplar Square Chase.
Willie also runs Devils Bride, and they both go there in good form, but Sizing Granite is probably the one we all have to beat.
That said, this race is a better option than the alternative: taking on Clarcam and Ptit Zig at Down Royal.
Alelchi is in good form, and two miles won’t be an inconvenience to him, but he’ll need to improve to beat Sizing Granite on these terms.
I’m told the going isn’t too bad at the moment and I hope it stays that way for Alelchi, and for Daisy’s Gift, who I ride in the following race.
She was a good winner at Gowran last time, but has a little to find with Snow Falcon on official figures. Hopefully, she’ll give her a run.
Tomorrow’s meeting at Cork looks like it will be a Gordon Elliott benefit.
Altiepix should win the novice hurdle, Lord Scoundrel the novice chase, and he could even win the Cork National with Riverside City.
Willie runs Screaming Rose in the bumper.
I didn’t know much about her before she won first time out, at Galway, but I rode her in work during the week, she went well, and seems to have improved from her run.
She’s a decent mare, she’s our only bumper runner of the weekend, and I think will win.
It’s also a great weekend for flat racing, with Golden Horn, Gleneagles and American Pharoah, amongst others, running at the Breeders’ Cup meeting in Keeneland, but don’t forget to set your alarms to get up on Tuesday morning for the Melbourne Cup.
Max Dynamite is our runner, and everything I hear from Australia tells me he’s in great form. All we need now is a good draw.
You don’t want to be drawn out in the car park or too close to the rails, so fingers crossed for something low to middle for him, and then it’ll be all systems go.
Is 40-minute intervals between races a good idea?
It’s becoming a feature in Ireland to have 35 minutes between races, and I read during the week that Cheltenham is going to have 40-minute intervals between races.
I know it’s being done for the betting shop punter, and I can understand that people want to see every single race, and be able to bet on them all.
At Cheltenham they also want to have time for the presentations, but I think they’re forgetting about the racegoer.
Even 35 minutes makes for a long day, 40 is really stretching it. To put it in context, the length of one half of the Rugby World Cup final is what’s going to be between races at Cheltenham — and there are seven races most days! They say it’ll benefit the racegoer. I’m not convinced.
Common sense in short supply
The Turf Club is introducing a rule to prevent jockeys from remounting horses. This is stepping in line with other national hunt jurisdictions, and I think it’s wrong.
Jockeys should be allowed to use their own common sense, and there are definitely circumstances when remounting should be permissible. Take today’s big race in Down Royal, for instance. Should one of the horses tip-up at the last, should the jockey not be allowed remount and walk across the line to claim fourth-place prize money?
To me, it’s just a case of the Turf Club playing ‘follow the leader’.
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