The proximity of the Cheltenham Festival and the fast ground has cut the quality and quantity of runner in Ireland this weekend at Navan and Leopardstown. Still, someone’s got to win, right?
We’ll start in the UK with a couple of the bigger contests and there’s a 3m 2f Chase at Newbuty 2.05pm where Abolitionist really needs to be getting competitive. He’s long been touted as a Grand National horse for Dr Richard Newland and if he’s going to be involved in the Grand National next month, he really must be in the mix at the business end in a veterans’ chase like this.
My old boss Paul Nicholls saddles three runners in the Greatwood Gold Cup (2.40pm) on the same card and he’s won this race six times in the past decade. As Harry Cobdon isn’t at the meeting it’s hard to know which is the best of Dolos, Warriors Tale and San Benedeto on jockey bookings alone.
Paul’s former pupil Dan Skelton has two in it also, with his brother Harry riding Azzuri who could be the stable’s number one choice. However, Value at Risk has always been talked about as a good horse and won well at Market Rasen last time out.
He was once rated 144 over hurdles in his prime and is rated 134 rated over fences. He’s a big enough price for an each-way play in a race where Paddy’s paying the first five home.
We’ve only three runners on the Navan card and two of our fillies run in the first race, where both wear hoods to try and help them settle. Formentera ran very free at Fairyhouse before tipping up at the last and you could say she even did well to last until then as she pulled so hard.
Fenta Des Obeaux fell when I rode her on her first start, but has improved since. I’d say Paul Townend had some job trying to split them but he’s gone for Fenta Des Obeaux.
If either settled they’re capable of running a good race but they’ll need to do exactly that to show their true form. Of the others, Joseph O’Brien’s Christopher Robin was decent on the Flat and ran well at Gowran a couple of weeks ago.
Great White Shark has been a little disappointing so far, but ran better at Thurles than on her first start at Fairyhouse. She’ll need to improve her jumping again to get involved in this.
There’s a small but select field for the Grade 3 Flyingbolt Novices Chase where Duca De Thaix is the top rated in the field.
He only has 3lb in hand of Jessica Harrington’s Jetz though and they meet on level terms. Still, if I had to pick who to ride, I’d side with Gordon Elliott’s runner.
We don’t have many veterans chases in Ireland but I like the look of Mr Diablo in the second last race at the Co. Meath track. He ran a decent enough race in the Thyestes when eighth to Invitation Only and the three-mile trip should suit him. While he carries top-weight, it looks like him and Velocity Boy could have this race between them.
A few at the bottom like Lamb or Cod and Shelford are starting to struggle a bit.