HOPING BALLY CAN GALLOP HIS RIVALS INTO SUBMISSION
The Christmas racing is finally underway and I’m back in Ireland on Thursday for an exciting book of rides at Leopardstown.
The big race of the day is the Paddy's Rewards Club Sugar Paddy Chase (13:15) and I’m riding the Enda Bolger-trained Ballyoisin. He’s been very good this season and I think he has definitely found some improvement. I was particularly impressed with him when he won a Grade 2 by a long way at Navan last time. The depth of the race can be questioned, but what he did was very good.
This will be a proper test of him, as it looks a well up-to-scratch Grade 1 and he has never run at this level in open company.
I’d be forgiving of Footpad last time and his novice form makes him the one to beat. Great Field is one of the few unknown quantities left towards the top of the division, so he has to be respected. It looks a race that will be run at a proper gallop, so I’d say we’ll know where we stand with him after this. Hopefully he can step up and compete.
The Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle (13:50) is the other Grade 1 on the card and I ride the Willie Mullins-trained Sancta Simona. I was really impressed with her when I rode her to win a maiden hurdle at Galway in October. She gave me a great feel. However, I thought she was quite workmanlike when I won a Grade 3 mares’ novice hurdle on her at Down Royal last time.
Based on that, I think she’d have to improve to win a Grade 1 novice hurdle, but at the same time this probably doesn’t look to be as strong a renewal of this race as you’d expect. The hope is that she’d return to showing the same sort of spark she showed me at Galway and can build on that. She’s with the right man to get that improvement from her.
The big handicap of the day is the Paddy Power Chase (15:00) and I ride John Kiely’s old legend of a horse Carlingford Lough. I thought he was running well up until he fell at the second-last fence in his most recent start at Listowel which would have been a fair effort for him as two-and-a-half miles would be plenty sharp for him these days. He’s 22lb lower than he was in his prime, but that was nearly four years ago and he has come down in the weights for a reason.
Track and ground will suit him, but this a big ask for him in such a highly-competitive handicap chase against progressive young horses.
My first ride of the day is on the Joseph O’Brien-trained Fightfortheroses in the Paddy Power 363 Christmas 3YO Maiden Hurdle. I haven’t sat on him, but he gone up to a mark of 92 on the Flat for Aidan O’Brien and if he can translate that to hurdles he’ll give me a good spin.
It’s so hard to know with these Flat horses having their first run over hurdles, it’s just a case of run them and hope they show an appetite for it.
My other ride on the day is for Joseph again on Ivanovich Gorbatov in the Paddy Power Enough Nonsense Handicap Hurdle. He has obviously been a very disappointing horse since I won the Triumph Hurdle back in 2016, beating Apple’s Jade and Footpad in the process.
He has slipped right down the weights as a result and while he should enjoy the ground, he has got his ground a few times in recent starts and hasn’t shown the improvement you would have hoped that he would on it. He’s a hard one to work out and it would be difficult to have any confidence in him until he shows a bit more spark.