This doesn’t look a strong maiden hurdle and Vinnie Is Busy looks like the one who could be better than this level in time. He was an impressive, and well-backed, winner of his bumper debut at Limerick at the end of Janaury. He wasn’t disgraced when a ten-lengths fourth at Naas on his next bumper start behind the potentially very smart Farouk D’alene and Fire Attack. His big danger here would look to be All About Joe but that one’s improved run last time came when stepped up in trip to just short of three miles. The drop back in trip to 2m3f must be a slight concern here. Vinnie Is Busy is trained by Charles Byrnes and he has a 23% strike rate at Downpatrick and he might well be able to improve that here.
Charles Byrnes might have a quick double, as Wajaaha would look to have decent claims to following up his Leopardstown win. Once rated in the 80’s on the flat when by Saeed bin Suroor. He moved to Denis Hogan at the end of 2018 and proved to be a little disappointing for that stable on the flat and in four runs in maiden hurdles. He switched to Charles Byrnes at the beginning of February and shaped ok at Naas in his handicap debut when 5th of 18. On his next start at Leopardstown, he was very well backed when going off 11/4 and made no mistake off a mark of 106, winning as if he was well ahead of that mark. The handicapper gave him a stone for that and now runs in a rated hurdle but if he can progress again from that run, he could well be up to doubling his tally over hurdles.
Silk Worm was useful in bumpers, finishing second on debut at Listowel before getting off the mark on her next start at Tramore. Admittedly, they weren’t the strongest bumpers ever run but it did point to her have a fair bit of ability. She has had three runs in hurdles, behind Dolcita when 6th at Tramore, 2nd to the 131 rated Fully Charged at Limerick and then 5th at Fairyhouse in February after a short break. She now goes handicapping off a mark of 99 and Sean O’ Keeffe takes five pounds off which is a plus. Silk Worm’s trainer Liz Doyle, has 50% of her runners hitting the first four in Downpatrick, so with Paddy paying four places here, I think she is worth an each-way play.
This year’s renewal of the Ulster National is stronger than recent renewals and this is highlighted by the fact that the last two years, horses rated 109 got a run, while this year the last in is rated 123. And while this is a stronger renewal, I do think that last year’s winner Amaulino has decent claims of going back to back. He was reasonably impressive when winning last year, despite his jumping not always being fluent and nowhere was he stronger than at the finish. He disappointed at Aintree subsequently but that was an extremely competitive handicap and two hurdles runs this season suggest this has been the aim for the season. He won last year off a mark of 121 and is now up to a mark of 129 but he has the assistance of a 7lb claimer. Paddy is paying four places here despite there only being 15 runners and Amaulino looks to have decent each-way claims.
Ballyadam is unlikely to be much of a price here but I think there was more promise in his bumper debut than people thought at the time. Purchased for £330,000 after an impressive point win, he was all the rage for his bumper debut at Navan where he was backed into ¼ and was as short as 6/1 for the Champion Bumper, despite never having run under rules. He did travel well for much of the race at Navan and hit 1.14 in the run but he didn’t quite pick up in the final furlong and was beaten over two lengths by Julies Stowaway and Delvino. Julies Stowaway ran a cracker when seventh in the Champion Bumper and Delvino won nicely up at Down Royal since also. The form is working out and Ballyadam can take this en route to taking high order in novice hurdles next season.
*All odds correct at time of posting