Fury Road certainly didn’t look to travel easily when winning at Christmas, but he has looked the part. A lot of his wins though have come on very soft ground and sometimes horses get a bit of a shock when they don’t get those conditions.
Leopardstown have said they’ve “turned the taps on” so it’s a case of knowing how much have they turned the taps on, how soft is it going to be?
There’s a lot of people who want to know the answer to that question – they will not want to lose all their money in the first race. We may have to play a bit of a waiting game for races to make sure the ground is slow enough for them.
I just love the way A Plus Tard goes through a race. You watch the race when this horse won at Cheltenham last year, when ridden aggressively. He’s a big, strong horse, I was super impressed by his win at Christmas over Chacun Pour Soi and it was no fluke.
The faster they go for him the better – don’t underestimate A Plus Tard.
Some of Cilaos Emery’s form is very, very good but he looks like jumping big fences is hard work for him. That’s a concern in a race of this quality.
Mark Walsh is a brilliant jockey, but I couldn’t help thinking at Christmas when Fakir Doudairies was beaten by Notebook: ‘what are you doing?’
Fakir Doudairies was so good at Fairyhouse when ridden aggressively – but things didn’t go to plan at Leopardstown over Christmas.
He got caught inside, he had nowhere to go at the wrong time and then Fakir Doudairies came home very strong against Notebook, but that rival had flown.
Fakir Doudairies certainly looks like he wants a little bit further than two miles. He’s a real strong staying two-miler, but wasn’t ridden like that the last day and got beaten because of it.
If he’s ridden like he was at Fairyhouse, he may get his revenge this time.
I like last year’s winner Quamino trained by Paul Nolan. He’s on a similar handicap mark again and is a double-digit price. His last run was over three miles, but the 2m 1f trip is more up his street.
He’s going to have a very live chance here at an each-way price.
There’s an English challenger here in Monsieur Lecoq so give them their due as they’re taking a punt and having a go. But this horse has got a bit to find to trouble these guys.
It wouldn’t surprise me to see Honeysuckle win this – but it is by far and away her sternest test to date.
And we just don’t know how she’s going to handle it.
Being an impressive winner over 2m 4f at Fairyhouse is a different ball game than being in among this lot over two miles, when they’re all racing together.
The early part of the race is easy, because you’re on them, saying ‘right, come on, jump over those first two.’ And most horses are alive to it.
It’s when you get to the third obstacle and you want them to try and settle into a rhythm, that’s when it gets harder. You can’t keep asking them to fly at every hurdle in a Grade One race like the Irish Champion Hurdle.
Rachael Blackmore might want to go a little wider to give Honeysuckle a clear look at the hurdles – but if you go wide at Leopardstown you’ll give away too much ground. You can’t really afford to do it.
Sharjah is the obvious danger if the ground doesn’t ride soft. He loves this place and has two Grade One wins here already.
I was chatting to Oakley Brown who rides for Joseph O’Brien about Eric Bloodaxe before he ran at Leopardstown over Christmas and he said the stable thought he was ‘very good.’
They were proved right and Eric Bloodaxe looked pretty smart that day to me. He can follow up in the finale on Saturday.