We begin this piece with an urgent appeal. Friends and family of Irish bumpers are beside themselves with worry. ‘The Last’ as it is affectionately known was expected to appear in Fairyhouse and Naas this weekend. No sign. This atypical behaviour must be considered alarming.
The most recent sighting of ‘The Last’ was in a fogbound Gowran Park on Thursday. Authorities cannot rule out the possibility of foul play. Any information or reported sightings will be treated with the utmost importance. Strict confidence is assured.
Missing bumpers aren’t the only intriguing aspect of this weekend. There are some talented sorts on show. Novice chasers in particular. Carefully Selected lines up in the 2.10 pm in Naas. He only has one entry for the Cheltenham Festival. To meet the entry criteria for the NH Chase he must finish in the first four here. That shouldn’t be a problem. There are only six runners.
Also, he’s a very talented horse, and I’ve a suspicion he may jump better going left-handed. He’s not a bad jumper but is inclined to be a bit, for want of a better word, careful. Those careful tendencies, combined with the concession of 6lbs to Ronald Pump, could leave Carefully Selected vulnerable here.
I’m guessing a bit with the prices but can envisage something like 4/6 Carefully Selected, 5/2 Ronald Pump and 14/1 bar. If that proves the case I will chance a bet on RP. This horse continues to improve. He was last seen going close, off a mark of 145, in a hurdle race in Leopardstown.
His distant second in the Drinmore is easily excused given he made a virtual race-ending mistake. He can jump. We know that from his impressive defeat of Captain CJ on chasing bow. RP should improve for this step up to three miles. The same is also true of Carefully Selected mind you. Carefully Selected is an awfully tough horse to subdue. At the likely price of around 2/1, I’ll chance Ronald Pump to overcome him.
There are a couple of well-contested handicaps in Naas. The first of these is a hurdle at 3.10 pm where Mister Eddman heads the weights. He is also the selection. He is a lightly raced sort. He went missing a bit after winning a weak maiden hurdle and subsequently being outclassed in a Punchestown Festival novice race. Connections seemed to know that he was back in business before his latest outing.
He was a well-backed 6/1 winner in Punchestown. That form took a few knocks in Gowran during the week. It did get a bit of a boost last weekend mind. The handicapper has taken a civilised line by putting the horse up five pounds. The drop in trip isn’t obvious. A big field and stiff track should help though. That big field also contains some unexposed sorts. We should get decent odds around the 7/2 mark.
The 3.40 pm looks another tightly-knit affair. Perhaps Star Max can provide the answer. His handicap mark of 132 is no bargain. His five-year-old allowance and the claim of jockey Oakley Brown make things a bit easier. This horse was held back over hurdles by a tendency to go through rather than over the obstacles.
He definitely shows fences more respect. He ran into a talented sort on chasing bow in Wexford. His fourth behind Carefully Selected in Fairyhouse is strong form. His latest effort was fairly dismal. He has been a generally reliable sort since joining the Joseph O’Brien yard. I’m inclined to forgive the last run. It should also mean we get a nice price of around 11/1.
Finally to Fontwell for the 3.20 pm, where I’m offering more forgiveness. Ruacana was pulled up last time out in Sandown. His previous effort, when finishing fifth, at the same track is red hot form. He would have finished closer that day too but for bungling the last two hurdles. Again he’s a horse who has proven generally reliable since joining current connections. Sunday’s race represents a massive drop in class.
There are only five runners so we’re not going to get a massive price. His latest effort combined with a bit of ageism may see him go off a reasonable price though of around 13/2. There is rain forecast for Sunday afternoon. It will not inconvenience Ruacana.