So to the start of two cracking days racing that should tell us so much about the Irish pecking order in advance of Cheltenham. Whilst only in existence two years in it’s current guise, they have been very informative (at least until the ground turned fast on the Sunday last year). There will be plenty of future festival winners on show, and a chance to make some festival funds….
NAP OF THE DAY: 1545: Unexcepted, 2pts win, 9/2
It is rare to see Willie throwing an unexposed novice into such a big handicap. Obviously he could blow out, but his hurdling debut lives long in the mind as he was so quick over his hurdles and that is the attribute that will serve him well here. Was bogged down at Limerick and that can be ignored. Not a seemingly over-generous price, but in reality he probably has two ways of running here, and one has him cruising home.
12:50: Longhouse Poet, 1pt win, 11/2:
This curious mid-trip of 2m6f probably talks more to Cheltenham’s Albert Bartlett than it does the Ballymore. Interwoven formlines suggest Willie Mullins’ Elixir D’ainay deserves to be favourite as he seems fractionally ahead of Latest Exhibition. I prefer both to Fury Road, whose reputation is nearly as high as his knee carriage and he would surely want it very soft. Longhouse Poet is bred to be a real stayer, he has a couple of lengths to find with Elixir on two previous beatings, but the extra 2f here could be right up his street.
1325: A Plus Tard, 1pt win, 7/2:
Chacun Pour Soi is the talking horse here. A back of the season defeat of top notcher Defi Du Seuil was enough for Champion Chase favouritism until the balloon was pricked at Christmas. He actually ran well there and looked a winner until A Plus Tard stayed on past him. Plenty of logic to him reversing the form, but that may do A Plus Tard a disservice and he is not too bad a price to confirm provided the ground doesn’t dry out too much. Chacun’s jockey Townend may be on the wrong one as stablemate Min has the class to be the biggest danger, but that long run from 2 out can suit A Plus Tard if he can stay close enough til then.
1400: Bapaume, 1pt win, 6/1:
A rematch of the Christmas duels between winner Notebook and Fakir D-Oudaries. Fakir may just reverse placings if ridden with more aggression. With Cash Back likely to also force the pace, the value could be in the good stayer Bapaume and top hurdler Melon. The old adage of the Cheltenham Arkle is that is won by the best hurdler. Melon fits that bill but his jumping could do with ring more fluent in this company. Townend could be left ruing his pick again here as the more fluent fencer Bapaume can put his proven stamina to good use late in what is sure to be a fast run race.
1435: Paloma Blue, 1pt win, 11/2:
Trainer Henry de Bromhead has a very good handle on the 2m chase division and had a sweep of entries for this race. He has boiled it down to three. Niccolai off a low weight at a huge price has some appeal under Rachel Blackmore, but it’s sure the class act Paloma Blue and Davy Russell that carries the stable’s top hopes. He loves this track and regularly produces his best here and can go very well now he’s back at his favourite stomping ground.
1510: Honeysuckle, 1pt win, 11/8
It’s hard to look past the big three here. We can’t be having Klassical Dream on his two runs this year, and his novice form is questionable outside of heavy ground. Sharjah is decent, but Honeysuckle gets the 7lbs mare allowance and whilst both 2m and a left handed track are relative unknowns, it will be disappointing if she doesn’t set up a clash of the mares with Epatante in the big one at Cheltenham.
1620: Lieutenant Command, 1pt win, 12/1,
Eric Bloodaxe and Appreciate It are the potential class acts here but they are priced accordingly. Lieutenant Commmand won in his bumper debut with consummate authority. That’s a much lower grade but he gets the could-be-anything tag and it’s interesting that the owners have big chances with horses from O’Brien and Elliott and year are happy to throw this guy in the mix as well. A healthy price for a speculative punt.
The Daily Yankee:
Unexcepted – Longhouse Poet – Bapaume – Honeysuckle
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