It was a surprise to hear that Faugheen and Min will miss the Champion Hurdle and Arkle Chase respectively, but to be honest, as a trainer, you can only ever worry about your own runners.
And that’s exactly what we’ll be doing for the next four weeks or so until Cheltenham.
I can’t control who will run in the Champion Hurdle or any of the other races, so my job is to get our runners as ready as they can be and whoever we have to take on, we take on.
While you’re always aware of what’s going on and picking up on other trainer’s targets, you’d drive yourself mad trying to second-guess everything.
The reality with Grade 1 runners is you have to expect to be going up against the best.
From my perspective, we need to get Petit Mouchoir & Co. to Cheltenham in as good a shape as possible, a tactical plan in mind and then take it from there.
Sizing Europe started 2/1 favourite for the Champion Hurdle in 2008, was swinging on the bridle two out, but ended up being pulled up. He was the first top horse we had but we’ve more depth in the travelling team this year.
Most of the team have been busy this season so the likes of Petit Mouchoir, Champagne West, Monalee, Sub Lieutenant, Special Tiara and Some Plan among others will go straight to the Cheltenham now.
They’re all just ticking over at home as you don’t want to over-cook them with extra runs little over a month out from the four-day Festival.
People may think it should be plain sailing keeping them sound at home, but something can always go wrong. We’ll just keep them in their routine and take it day-by-day, until it’s time to travel over.
It’s a quiet weekend for us with just the three runners but the Leopardstown card on Sunday should be very informative for the Irish challengers at the Festival.
We’re hoping Balko des Flos runs well in the Grade 1 Flogas Novice Steeplechase over 2m 5f. He won a novice chase over 2m 1f at Fairyhouse but appeared not to stay when a distant third to Anibale Fly stepping up 3m at Navan the last time. He’s upped in grade, but back in trip for Sunday’s contest, so we’ll have a better idea where we stand afterwards.
It will be interesting to see how Empire of Dirt gets on in the Irish Gold Cup at 4pm. He’s attempting similar to what we’re going trying to do with Thyestes winner Champagne West at Cheltenham next month.
Gordon Elliott’s runner is stepping out of handicap company to Grade 1 class after running out an impressive winner of the Troytown Chase off top weight at Navan. It’s a big step up in class against proven Grade One performers but there’s a couple of others in the race also looking to stake a claim for Cheltenham and prevent a Carlingford Lough three-peat in the feature race.
At Naas on Saturday, Bold Sky runs in a maiden hurdle on Saturday. She’s a nice mare but obviously lacks experience as this is here first try.
Heron Heights returns in the 2m h’cap chase at 3.55pm. He’s carrying top weight but needs to run after a 114-day break, having won the 3m novice chase at Cheltenham last October.
He prefers better ground and a return trip to Cheltenham is the plan for one of the 3m handicaps or possibly the RSA Chase, so we need to get a run into him before that.
It was great to see Capital Force getting his head in front at Thurles on Thursday, as he’d hit the crossbar a couple of times. He wouldn’t have been in love with the tacky ground, so two miles on good ground will be the key to him from now.