Monalee relished the 3m stamina test and the soft ground to win at Clonmel on Thursday. He holds entries in the 3m Albert Bartlett and the 2m 5f Neptune Hurdle but I’d imagine a lot depends on where Death Duty runs.
He’s already beaten Monalee at Navan (giving him 3lbs). so whether we want to take him on again over hurdles at Cheltenham, I’m not 100 per cent sure yet.
But Monalee was always at his ease in Clonmel and probably could have gone a gear faster the whole way around. We’ve options with him and will decide nearer the time.
Both Colin Tizzard’s West Approach and Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Wholestone put up impressive performances at Cheltenham last weekend so both the Neptune and the Albert Bartlett – won last year by current Stayers’ Hurdle favourite Unowhatimeanharry – look quite deep again this year.
You’ve got to expect that at the Festival though. Every race is competitive.
It was brilliant to win two Grade One races in the Irish Champion Hurdle and Irish Arkle Chase at Leopardstown last Sunday.
Although he had to do it the hard way, Petit Mouchoir did exactly what I hoped he would do. Ruby Walsh and Nichols Canyon took him on a lot earlier this time than at Christmas, but he galloped all the way to the line.
Although Footpad, who seems to be improving in his own right, got a little closer to him at the end this time, he wasn’t involved in the toe-to-toe battle early on and that would have have helped him
We’ll go straight to Cheltenham for the Champion Hurdle now. So long as conditions aren’t too extreme, either too quick or too soft, it shouldn’t bother Petit Mouchoir.
Came to Grief
Some Plan was able to pick up the pieces in the Irish Arkle after our other runner Identity Thief tipped up at the first – and Willie Mullins’ two runners also came to grief.
He’s now three wins from four over fences. Even that defeat was an unlucky fall at Cheltenham last November when travelling well in front before hitting the turf two out. The Arkle Chase looks the obvious race for him now and the better the ground, the better his chance.
We’ve Identity Thief is penciled in to go to a Grade 3 2m 1f Novice Chase at Navan on Feb 19. He had been schooling brilliantly at home but we’ll just try to get his confidence back on the track now and take it from there.
Our Thyestes Chase winner Champagne West is entered in the Cheltenham Gold Cup but he will definitely need some ease in the ground or he won’t be risked in the Blue Riband.
The handicapper put him up 12lbs to 166, so we’re in the ratings band you need to be in, to be a Gold Cup contender. That’s the aim but we’ll just have to see what the ground is like on St Patrick’s Day.
Jouxplane starts off for us in a 2m maiden hurdle at Fairyhouse 1.10pm He’s a nice young horse, having his first run for us both most of the others have some experience so we’ll just have to see how he gets on.
The Grade 3 Mares Novice Hurdle 2.50pm sees Island Remede try to follow up her Christmas win at Limerick.
She was good that day, her jumping is getting better and she’s improving all the time. She may be pitched in at the deep end a bit but with a rating of 125 she’s entitled to take her chance.
Classic Theatre runs in the bumper at 4.30pm as she looks to improve on her second place finish to Awayinthewest at Fairyhouse last December. This is a big step up but it’s always worth taking a chance when there’s black type to be won with mares.
At Punchestwon on Sunday, Montana Belle runs in the Listed Novice Hurdle (1.30pm). She won a 2m maiden hurdle in good style on New Year’s Day at Faiyhouse but she’ll be taking on the boys here. We’re aiming her at the Mares Novice Hurdle at Cheltenham and that is a stepping stone towards that target.
The King of Brega is in good form at home but hasn’t run since November. He was just getting the hang of things when he finished eighth to Cantlow at this track so we’ll see whether he can improve for that experience in the 3m Cross Country Steeplechase (2.30pm).
It’s a small but select field in the day’s finale at 4.30pm. Judgement Day had a nice run at Limerick when second to Ballyluskey over Christmas, so will take his chance in what looks a competitive contest to round off the weekend’s action.