RECOVERY IS GOING WELL AS WE HEAD INTO IRISH NATIONAL WEEKEND
I was back in the hospital for the latest check up on my leg last Wednesday and everyone was very happy with it. I’m due to go in next Wednesday for what is hoped to be the last adjustment to the external frame. After that it will be seven weeks of recovery without any need for more check-ups. Everything is going as well as I could have hoped at the minute and I’m already counting down the days to getting back in action.
The Fairyhouse Easter Festival will be the main focus of attention in the coming days and being my local meeting, it is always one I really look forward to. One thing I’d say straight away is that I’m only five miles from the track and the weather is absolutely beautiful here at the minute. It’s promised to stay like this for at least another few days, so while they are watering up there, it wouldn’t be at all surprising if the ground ends up being on the quick side. That is something to very much bear in mind when weighing up the form.
The highlight of Sunday’s card there is the Ryanair Gold Cup Novice Chase (16:25) and it’s a really interesting race. Mengli Khan is the one to beat on the form book, but having had hard races at both Cheltenham and Aintree, I’d be worried about his ability to produce a third big effort in the space of five-and-a-half weeks. It’s a big ask and he might be vulnerable to a fresher one in the Aidan Howard-trained Winter Escape.
He might well have caught A Plus Tard on a bit of an off day when they met at Punchestown in January, but he gave him a stone and a good beating there which looks very good after what A Plus Tard did at Cheltenham. He was obviously disappointing at the Dublin Racing Festival where he burst a blood vessel, but Aidan has given him plenty of time to recover and that freshness will stand to him. If he’s back to his best, he must have a big chance.
The Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Novice Hurdle Championship Final (14:50) is another very interesting Grade 1 and I think the Henry De Bromhead-trained Honeysuckle could be different class to these. Her form through the season has looked strong and while she missed Cheltenham with a little setback, that means she comes here a fresh horse and that will be a big help to her.
Eglantine Du Seuil was good when winning at Cheltenham and the penny only seemed to be dropping with her, but I thought the race set up for something coming off the pace and she picked up the pieces.
Looking ahead to Monday, the Boylesports Irish Grand National (17:00) looks as competitive as ever and the whole thing is complicated by the distinct possibility of quick enough ground. At the top end of the weights, Shattered Love is one of the few that might be capable of carrying that weight, but the ground must be a worry for her.
Any Second Now is another that looks to have a right good chance for Ted Walsh and Mark Walsh. He put it all together when winning at Cheltenham last time and he shouldn’t have a problem with this longer trip.
If I had to pick one, Acapella Bourgeois is probably the one I’d go for. I thought he did well to win at Clonmel last time over two-and-a-half miles considering the ground was as quick as it was. Stepping back up to this longer trip should suit and I could see him running very well.
The Devenish Chase looks another cracker on a race and it looks to be amongst the first four on the card. Un De Sceaux is the form pick and while he might be suited by softer ground, he has shown a high level of form on better ground too.
I’ve been impressed with Darasso in his last couple of starts and he should come on from his first experience of Irish fences last time. The ground would be a concern for him too, but he is going the right way.
Snow Falcon is one that should be fine on the ground and he comes in a fresh horse after a winter break. His beating of Shattered Love and Monalee at Down Royal back in November looks solid and he must have a big chance. I’m finding it hard to have a strong opinion on the race, but I’d probably just about side with Snow Falcon.
Samcro will get a lot of attention if he appears in the Keelings Irish Strawberry Hurdle (15:50), but I reckon Bapaume could be the one. He has run very well in his last two starts over three miles, but I’m not convinced at how well he stays that trip and dropping back to two-and-a-half miles could be ideal for him. He should run very well.
The other Graded race on the card is the Rathbarry & Glenview Studs Juvenile Hurdle (14:40) and the big two look to be second and third in the Triumph Hurdle in Coeur Sublime and Gardens Of Babylon.
Coeur Sublime was 3¾ lengths in front of me that day, but Gardens Of Babylon has given me the impression that he is learning from every start over hurdles, so there would be hope that he can at least close the gap. It should be a fascinating rematch.