It has been some week as we head into the final day at Leopardstown and Limerick and I was down at Willie Mullins’ yard riding work this morning. There’s still racing at Tramore, Fairyhouse and Punchestown over the New Year so the horses have to be ridden out and exercised.
It’s a tough time on staff and the way we work it that anyone who is off on Christmas Day usually works New Year’s Day instead. That’s about the fairest way to work it as it allows those who have to travel home get back for Christmas and the more local staff get their lie in on New Year’s Day. The staff put in a huge effort to make the Christmas Festivals the success they’ve been and it shouldn’t be underestimated. We all appreciate at Willie’s anyway.
It was a good win for Vroum Vroum Mag yesterday. The pundits say she just idled a bit in front, but she did the same when winning the mares’ hurdle at Cheltenham last March. I’ve little doubt that she stays three miles and as with a few of our horses whose targets have yet to be finalised, all options remain open. It’s a nice position to be in.
I start off on Battleford in the second race at Leopardstown today. He was a little disappointing at Navan where he got outpaced over 2m the step up to 2m 4f today should suit him. The form of that Navan race, with the winner Brelade running second to Saturnas in Tuesday’s Grade One contest here and Joey Sasa winning a competitive maiden hurdle, has worked out really.
Battleford is in great form at home and we’d be very hopeful he can collect.
We’ve two in this with Let’s Dance who I ride and Daisy’s Gift ridden by Danny Mullins, who is no back number either.
Joseph O’Brien’s Slowmotion was very good last year but we get 5lbs off her today and that could be the difference. Joseph O’Brien could possibly be looking to double up as he has a nice runner in the opener called Katnap that caught my eye earlier.
But Let’s Dance is a very nice filly and the step up in trip to 2m 4f should suit her with Slowmotion possibly the biggest danger.
An ultra-competitive novice chase and I’d give my mount Briar Hill an each-way shout. He was second over 2m last time out but today’s 3m trip is more his game.
I can’t really find any of the others that you can discount in the 10-runner field with A Toi Phil, Alpha Des Obeaux, Coney Island and Martello Tower to name a few all having serious claims.
Coney Island looks the one we have to beat on his Drinmore Chase win at Fairyhouse but this is a very competitive contest. I wouldn’t put anyone off Briar Hill or given the form Willie’s horses are in – a small interest on Bellow Mome either.
Nichols Canyon sets the standard in the Ryanair Hurdle and all the others have to improve to beat him. He was very good in the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown on his reappearance where he beat Jer’s Girl by 12 lengths. It could easily have been 20.
Petit Mouchoir looked to have a winning chance in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle before tipping up and could be the danger. However, Nichols Canyon has won seven Grade One races, beat Identity Thief in this contest last year on very soft ground and was third in the Champion Hurdle behind Annie Power. No-one else has that form in the book yet.
The Novice H’cap Hurdle is a lot more open. I ride First to Boogie who drops back to 2m 4f having won over 2m 6f at Punchestown last time out but I don’t know a whole lot about him otherwise.
He has his chance but there’s plenty of contenders with Barry Geraghty riding StretchingtheTruth for Noel Meade and Gordon Elliott saddling Bilko.
Pylononthepressure has been a little disappointing, finishing second on his three runs over hurdles. Hopefully he gets his head in front today at Limerick at 12.05pm.
We like the mare Benie Des Dieux in the 12.35pm who has been working well at home and although she’s long odds on could be a more reliable bet than Pylonthepressure.
Noel Meade’s Rathnure Rebel sets the standard in the 1.45 where Livelovelaugh could give him most to do as Penhill didn’t jump well for me the last day at Fairyhouse in the Royal Bond.
Even though Penhill finished fourth to some good horses, he will have to improve his jumping. However, both are good enough to make sure this isn’t a gimme for likely favourite Rathnure Rebel.