Jack Kennedy. Philip Enright. Shane Shortall. December has witnessed some remarkable acts of survival in the saddle and, while Grey Waters was already labouring when throwing the latter up and over her neck at Aintree, the fact that Kennedy and Enright were able to still win aboard their mounts makes their feats all the more incredible. Picking a ride of the month will be no easy task, with that duo surely high up on the shortlist.
The winner will be joining some illustrious company, including the Houdini act of Killultagh Vic and Ruby Walsh, who were awarded the accolade for their amazing act of escapism in January 2016. The partnership appeared to have a Grade 2 Novice Chase at Leopardstown sown up jumping the last, but Killultagh Vic slithered on landing, losing all momentum and quickly dropping back to third. That he was able to recover and win marked him out as something very special, and his reappearance, therefore, is eagerly anticipated.
A winner of a Grade 1 Novice Hurdle on his last start over hurdles in April 2015 – beating none other than Thistlecrack – he will not have things all his own way after nearly two years off in the Free Festival Upgrade Ticket Offer Hurdle (13:40), though, with the eight-year-old still needing to show he retains all of his ability after a suspensory injury. Diamond King and Ivanovich Gorbatov are both capable of smart form on their day and head the list of dangers, but Killultagh Vic’s class edge should see him through to give trainer Willie Mullins a welcome boost.
Robin des Mana was the horse that benefited from Kennedy’s inspirational ride to score at Clonmel earlier this month, and will be attempting to resume winning ways in the 2m Handicap Chase (13:05), with Davy Russell standing in for the injured Kennedy. Surrogate Lad makes more appeal on this occasion, however, having won very easily at Thurles last time. He remains open to more improvement and can defy a hefty 14 lb hike in the weights.
Elsewhere on the card, Monbeg Notorious and Msassa appear to hold standout claims in the Beginners’ Chase (12:35) and three-year-old Maiden Hurdle (14:10), respectively, while Fruits of Glory, ridden by that man Philip Enright, could be the value call at big odds in the 2½m Handicap Hurdle (14:40). He has run well off much higher ratings in the past and should appreciate the return to the smaller obstacles, having fallen over fences at Kilbeggan last time.
12.35 – Monbeg Notorious
13.05 – Surrogate Lad
13.40 – Killultagh Vic
14.10 – Msassa
14.40 – Fruits of Glory