I suppose the obvious place to start is last weekend and Zanahiyr’s good run in the Morgiana Hurdle in Punchestown. The race wasn’t really run to suit, but he is slowly making the step up in grade we hoped he might and he finished a gallant second to a good horse. Hopefully he will continue to progress and we will see him step forward again when he runs next at Christmas.
Looking ahead to a busy weekend, where I’m riding at Gowran on Saturday and then attention turns to Navan on Sunday for the feature race the Troytown. Here are my thoughts on my Saturday rides.
12.00pm COLUMN OF FIRE Irish Stallion Farms EBF Beginners Chase (4yo+) 2m 4f
My first ride of the weekend is Column Of Fire who makes his chasing debut in the beginners chase. Ordinarily you’d be pretty keen on his chances in a normal beginners chase but there is a certain Bob Olinger in the field against him which makes life tough! My fella has schooled nicely and wears pieces for the first time which should sharpen him up. He has a nice future over fences but whether he’s good enough to beat a horse of the class of Bob Olinger remains to be seen. We’ll give it a go though.
1.38pm INDIGO BREEZE Noreside Catering Irish EBF Maiden Hurdle (5yo+) 2m
I’m really looking forward to riding Indigo Breeze in the maiden hurdle. He won his bumper nicely at Thurles and then was a good second in a maiden hurdle at Fairyhouse this time last year. He didn’t really step forward from that at Christmas last year in a good race behind Gaillard Du Mesnil in Leopardstown. However, he’s had time to strengthen up and catching him fresh may well be the key. This looks like a decent race with the Willie Mullins trained Deploy The Getaway the obvious danger.
2.13pm SAINT FELICIEN Proficient Engineering Ltd Novice Hurdle (4yo) 2m
We are looking forward to getting started with Saint Felicien who makes his hurdling debut for us in the novice hurdle. There are plenty of horses with a similar profile to him and it looks a warm contest. He’s done everything right at home and we’ll learn a lot more about him now back on a racecourse. He looks a really nice prospect. Dark Voyager, the top one of Willie Mullins, sets the bar pretty high and has had plenty of experience.
3.23pm CUTE CHERRY Holden Plant Rentals Mares Handicap Hurdle (4yo+) 2m 4f
My final ride of the afternoon is the mare Cute Cherry in this mares handicap hurdle. She finally got her act together winning in Clonmel the last day. She missed the start a bit that day which inadvertently helped her a bit. Hopefully she can build on that now she has caught the winning habit. This looks tougher with her being up 7lb to a mark of 107 so will need to step forward again but hopefully she can do.
HAYDOCK – Betfair Chase
Finally a word on the big race in England the Betfair Chase in Haydock at 3.00pm.
It’s interesting to see A Plus Tard (pictured below) come over for Henry (De Bromhead) and Rachael (Blackmore). Another big tip is the fact that Rachael was prepared to come over and not ride Bob Olinger at home to ride this fella – that’s a tip in it’s own right. That said, Minella Indo was beaten on his seasonal reappearance and whether A Plus Tard is straight enough to get the job done first time up remains to be seen. He has been beaten on his seasonal reappearance for the last three seasons, admittedly over a shorter trip but it is a slight worry. He is classy though, so if Henry has him straight and ready to go he’ll be the one to beat. If he needs it a bit then the three times winner and course specialist Bristol De Mai will be there to pick up the pieces – if he needs to.