13:30 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
Facile Vega clearly over-raced at the Dublin Racing Festival. You don’t often see Willie Mullins publicly criticise his jockeys, but that was one where he wasn’t afraid to pull Paul Townend up for the tactics he employed that day. He simply went too fast. There’s little doubt though that Facile Vega is a hugely talented individual and is still the one they’ve got to beat. Albeit I do remember Willie’s comments after the race when he referenced how hard a race he thought the horse had and whether he had the time to get him back. I thought that was quite interesting. Although I suppose you’re not going to get it out of him where the horse is now! I would definitely forgive the horse for that run. It was just one bad run, he’s still a proper horse. He just did too much. I would imagine he’ll be ridden differently.
I do like the look of Marine Nationale, who’s still unbeaten. He was last seen at Fairyhouse when he won the Royal Bond. That was a really good performance. I think he’s a big danger. It’s a big day for the Noel Fehily Syndicate. They’ve got the Tolworth Hurdle winner in there, with Tahmuras. I thought Il Etait Temps who won the race at Leopardstown probably didn’t get the credit he deserved as all the talk afterwards was about Facile Vega. I know Willie won ten races at last year’s Festival and he could very well do so again. However I think the Irish will win it, but I’ve a feeling it will be with Barry Connell’s Marine Nationale.
Selection: Marine Nationale
14:10 Arkle Trophy Novices’ Chase
I think this comes down to Jonbon and El Fabiolo. They clashed at Aintree last year where Jonbon just came out on top over hurdles, and I do think it will be another close encounter over fences. Obviously from our perspective, having chased home Jonbon with Boothill in the Henry VIII earlier in the season, I’d like to see him win. I think similar comments that I made about Facile Vega probably apply to Jonbon. You can definitely forgive him for an under par performance in the Kingmaker. Nicky Henderson said it at the time, it was a prep race. So you’d expect him to be an entirely different proposition on Tuesday than what we saw from him around Warwick.
In the Arkle with novices over two miles it will come down to who puts in the cleanest, slickest round of jumping. I was very impressed with El Fabiolo at the Dublin Racing Festival and having overlooked Willie’s horses in the Supreme, I think El Fabiolo might just come out on top here.
Selection: El Fabiolo
14:50 Ultima Handicap Chase
This was won by a novice chaser last year, in Corach Rambler who has obvious claims again. However I like the look of Monbeg Genius who looks unexposed. He actually finished a long way behind our horse, Ree Okka, at Aintree at the start of the season but has won three on the bounce since, including when we were only 3rd to him with the same horse Ree Okka at Chepstow in early February. Unfortunately we don’t seem to have progressed, where Moybeg Genius certainly seems to be on an upward curve. He showed a good willing attitude the last day, he’s a novice, so potentially could be ahead of the handicapper more so than the older horses. At a double digit price, he’d be my idea of decent each way value.
Selection: Monbeg Genius
15:30 Champion Hurdle
This is obviously Constitution Hill’s biggest test, but on everything we’ve seen of him so far, there’s no reason to think why he won’t win. There’s an expectation of him not just winning but winning handsomely. But it’s a horse race at the end of the day and you still need things to go your way. However from Nico De Boinville’s point of view, the horse has shown his versatility. He can make his own running and can do whatever he wants. He’s a very uncomplicated horse. That’s what makes him so good. He sounds like a joy to train, very laid back, takes everything in his stride and saves his best for the racecourse. We all get into this great sport to watch the best compete and this should be a fascinating watch. Having been lucky enough to be involved with Rock On Ruby back in 2012, it’s one of the Blue Riband events of the season and like any other sport you want to see the champions doing their stuff and doing it impressively. However he’s still going to have to show up and do his thing, because there are some good horses in the line-up that are more than capable of giving him a race, if he’s not quite on his A Game.
State Man tops that list. I Like To Move has form tied in with one of ours, when he carried top weight to beat Gin Coco in the Greatwood Hurdle. That was a good performance. He won as he liked in the Kingwell. We’re all expecting Constitution Hill to win and win well, but there are some very good horses there to at least keep him honest. So Constitution Hill to win, but maybe I Like To Move It in the betting without the favourite market might prove to be a bit of value.
Selection: Constitution Hill
16:10 Mares’ Hurdle
What a race in prospect. Apart from the rank outsider and she’s rated 120, you can easily make a case for nine of them! Although I suppose in saying that Theatre Glory would be happier on better ground. It’s just ridiculously competitive. And when you think about it the last three Champion Hurdle’s have been won by mares and there’s not a single mare in it this year. They’ll all be in this race. That just shows you how good Constitution Hill is. I was thinking that you could run this race ten times and possibly get ten different results. A lot is going to depend on how the race is run, luck in-running et cetera.
With the way the weather has gone, we have to fancy our chances. They’re expecting soft ground and that has brought us right back into it. She’s done very little wrong. She’s only been beaten the once and that was by Brandy Love at Fairyhouse last year at what was the end of a busy season for us. I’ve got full respect for Brandy Love. She’s just had her comeback run at Punchestown and is bound to strip fitter for that run. There’s not one in particular that I necessarily fear, but of course you respect all of them. However If you were to push me on it, Marie’s Rock is possibly the one we’ve got to beat. She won the race last year. She was very impressive in the Relkeel Hurdle. Connections had the option of the Stayers’ Hurdle, but the ground has probably helped them make up their minds. You’ve everyone saying Honeysuckle has regressed, but she’s still an extremely good horse. She was 3rd on her seasonal debut behind Teahupoo who’s well fancied for the Stayers’ Hurdle and she was runner-up in the Irish Champion Hurdle to State Man, who’s most likely to give Constitution Hill the most to think about. So even though she’s nine, she’s been there, done it and won it. Then you have Epatante, who’s been chasing home Constitution Hill and when she didn’t have him in the race, she bolted up at Doncaster!
We know we’re very happy with Love Envoi, but as I’ve said it’s one of those races where a lot is going to depend on how the race is run, getting the rub of the green and getting the right gap at the right time. As for our own tactics both Ciara and I, along with Noel Fehily and Dave Crosse will discuss it with Johnny. However she’s very versatile which is a nice position to be in. So from our point of view it’s not a case of we have to make it, or she has to be held up. In truth at the end of the day we’ll leave it up to Johnny to decide. Once he gets to the start, he’ll get a feel for how the race is going to unfold. It’s down to him to have her in the right position. We never tie him to instructions, because he’s out there to ride the race as he sees fit.
Selection: Love Envoi
16:50 Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle
A tricky race to find the winner. You don’t know a lot unless you’re particularly attached to one of them, what the vibes are et cetera coming out of the yards. Four year old juvenile’s with not many runs to their name! The one I thought could be of interest and could run well is Perseus Way, who’s by Sea The Stars. Okay he’s a little more exposed than a lot of these, off 132. The Moore’s though do very well with their juveniles. They had a good day at Sandown on Saturday. He’s running in a handicap but has been placed in two Grade 2 juvenile hurdles this season, at Chepstow on Welsh Grand National Day and again in the Adonis at Kempton. So at least you know he’s battled hardened, has plenty of experience, which will count for a lot and is from a stable clearly in form.
Selection: Perseus Way
17:30 National Hunt Challenge Cup Novices’ Chase
The obvious choice is the short priced favourite Gaillard Du Mesnil, but I do think he’s a tad short for a race like this. He’s only won once over fences having finished 3rd on six occasions. Minella Crooner could be an interesting alternative and he’s a more suitable price. Barry O’Neill, who is one of the Top Irish amateurs, takes the ride and I just think he has some nice snippets of form. Gordon Elliott has three in the race. You’d imagine Chemical Energy is their number 1 string as Jamie Codd rides him, however I just think the step up in strip will suit Minella Crooner and he has lots of good form on soft ground.
Selection: Minella Crooner
Best of luck,