After the highs of last week, it pains me to be a harbinger of doom. Storm Ciara casts a looming shadow over this weekend. No surprise to me. Ciara’s are generally bad eggs in my experience.
Well that’s probably not fair. Tiny sample size. As a callow youth I took a girl called Ciara to my Debs. It didn’t end well. As a callow middle-aged man I must try to move on. There is an unmerciful amount of rain forecast. The best case scenario will involve heavy ground. There is also a quality card at Exeter but it faces an 8am inspection.
In the hope of some racing, here are four horses to consider.
The graded novice hurdle at Punchestown 14.15 looks a competitive affair. Beacon Edge tops the list, and will probably head the betting. He brings classy bumper form to the party, and jumped competently when making a winning hurdles debut in October.
He wouldn’t definitely have won that day. A rival tipped up at the last. Also we haven’t seen him since, and he’s unproven on deep ground. It may well be significant that Gordon Elliot pitches Fighter Allen in at this level on hurdles debut.
This horse won a French bumper on his only start, and is a half brother to Envoi Allen.
They are just a couple of the credible contenders. Hopefully this stiff competition will result in Cedarwood Road going in at rewarding odds. This lightly-raced sort made a promising hurdles debut in Fairyhouse.
He built on that by romping home in Leopardstown over Christmas. The form of that race could be working out better. Cedarwood was mighty impressive though. He’s a big, strong, chasing type and I expect there’s loads of improvement to come.
Hopefully he can take another step up the ladder on Sunday.
The staying handicap hurdle at 15.20 is more mundane fare. Winners always welcome though. Ask Mary may prove the answer. This mare races from a hurdles rating 12 pounds lower than over fences.
What’s most eye catching about that is she doesn’t look to have a particularly good fencing technique. Indeed, she fell early on her latest start. She suffered a narrow defeat on penultimate outing in Navan.
That race looks like fairly solid form. On her last run in a handicap hurdle she was sent off a well backed favourite. Granted she disappointed but the betting would suggest she was considered well treated.
That Navan second was on heavy ground so the rain is welcome. Her jumping is a concern but the handicap disparity means she can probably afford a couple of mistakes. It all has the look of a perfect storm to me.
The best bet on the card comes in the Grand National Trial at 16.25. Rocky’s Silver is a relatively unexposed seven-year-old. He has a more than acceptable strike rate of five wins in 13 career starts under rules. He comes here on the back of winning his last two starts over fences.
He was a bit disappointing over hurdles in between those two wins. The trip was probably on the sharp side that day. The form of his win at this track in November worked out well. He will have to race of an 18lb higher mark on Sunday.
He came back to Punchestown last month and produced a dour staying performance to triumph. Derek O’Connor used all his skills to keep the horse in the race that day.
Rocky can race a bit on and off the bridle. Conor Orr takes over on Sunday. That’s obviously a downgrade but he knows the horse and can claim 5lbs.
Everything about Rocky screams stamina. The extra three furlongs look sure to elicit more improvement. Hopefully that can compensate for the step up in the weights and grade.
The meeting at Exeter was cancelled on Sunday morning
Finally to Exeter for the Pertemps qualifier at 15.00. Captain Drake runs off a mark of 135. That would have just snuck into the final at Cheltenham last year.
Maybe Harry Fry doesn’t want to take any chances on getting him in. Maybe the horse isn’t bound for the Festival either way. He should be very competitive on Sunday anyway. He had a slow start to this season. Fry’s horses were under a bit of a cloud then. They seemed to be confident he had turned a corner before his last run over fences.
He ran out a ready winner at this course on New Year’s Day. The second and third have boosted the form since. He’s back over hurdles here and races from a higher mark. Those are concerns but he was a promising novice hurdler and his efforts in that sphere suggest he can cope with this rating.
He has winning form on heavy ground so should cope with conditions better than most.
He looks a very solid play here.