BALLYOISIN DESERVES TO KEEP TOP COMPANY FOLLOWING FORTRIA HEROICS
It’s been a busy and interesting few days for me and the highlight was definitely winning on BALLYOISIN in the thetote.com Fortria Chase at Navan on Sunday.
He’s always an exciting horse to ride, but he was probably even more exciting than I was expecting on Sunday! Enda Bolger produced him in great shape on what was his first run for two months and he produced a super performance, winning by 23 lengths. He has an unbelievable appetite for jumping fences and I thought he jumped better than ever.
Before Sunday, you’d look at his form and question whether he could compete at the top level, but based on what he did at Navan you’d have to say he’s entitled to be given the chance to prove himself in Grade 1 company now.
He has won over two-miles five-furlongs and seems versatile, but he is clearly very effective over two miles. Ground wise, he probably prefers nice ground, but to be fair to him he finished second to Disko on soft ground last season and has other good form on soft ground too. I’m really looking forward to riding him again, he’s a great thrill.
Racing is a great leveller and after that high, I was literally brought back to earth half an hour later as CAMPEADOR fell at the second fence in the beginners chase. He jumped the first really well and has a good technique, but it just seems to be a concentration issue with him rather than a mechanical one. He’s with the right man in Gordon Elliott to get him right and if he ever puts it all together, we know the engine is in there.
My first ride of the day at Navan had been on JEZKI for Jessica Harrington in the Lismullen Hurdle and he ran well to finish a modest second to Apple’s Jade. He showed plenty of spark, but being realistic he doesn’t seem to be the horse he once was. That said, there will still be races to won with him and I’m sure Jessica will find them. Trip wise, I think he is versatile enough at this stage to compete over any trip over hurdles.
I didn’t have as much luck at Aintree on Saturday, but I thought UNOWHATIMEANHARRY acquitted himself well enough in the BRTC Hurdle. A bit like Jezki, he’s pushing on in years and isn’t getting any quicker, which showed on Saturday I thought. When he won this race last year, he travelled quite well through the race, but on Saturday he laboured a bit before running on again. He just needs further at this stage of his career. It might be a struggle for him to compete at the highest level, but getting him back over three miles will tell us more about how much ability is left there.
One that I have to mention is the Nicky Henderson-trained EPATANTE. I won a novice hurdle at Kempton on her on Monday and she was impressive. She was a little bit keen early and brushed a few hurdles, but she jumped better as the race went and she quickened well when I asked her to. She’s pacey filly and while her jumping will need to improve when she goes up in class, I think she will. It was an ordinary enough race, but you’d be hoping that one with her profile will be able to step up in class and climb the ladder.
PERFORMANCES TO NOTE FROM NAAS ON SATURDAY
While I wasn’t riding at Naas on Saturday, there were a few performances that I took note of.
I rode the Joseph O’Brien-trained Rhinestone in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham in March and it was great to see him make a winning hurdling debut, albeit in workmanlike style. He travelled well for me at Cheltenham, but looking at him on Saturday, he might end up staying further than two miles over hurdles. He’ll need to improve on what he did there to compete in proper Graded company, but there’s every chance he’ll do that.
It’s hard to know what would have happened in the Fishery Lane Hurdle if Saldier had jumped the last, but either way, the Gavin Cromwell-trained Espoir D’Allen was going to run a big one. He was well on his way to being a very good juvenile hurdler last season until the wheels came off at Leopardstown, so it was great to see him come back and put up a performance like that. It will be tougher for him when he steps into open company, but he’s definitely a smart horse.
Footpad was probably the main focus of attention for most over the weekend in the Poplar Square Chase, but it wasn’t to be for him. He seemed to give himself a fright or maybe hurt himself when making a mistake at the third fence and he didn’t really jump at all after that. I thought Saint Calvados had his measure when he fell at the last, but I’d be adamant that we didn’t see the real Footpad. Saint Calvados put up a solid winning performance, but for me it was more about Footpad not being at anything like his best.