Tony Keenan's Irish Angle

Our Irish expert Tony Keenan has a look at last weekend's high class jumping action in Ireland as well as a suggested bet in Limerick's Munster National on Sunday.

  • Wednesday 09 October
  • Blog
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Summer/Winter jumping Crossroad Review

This past weekend had the greatest concentration of black-type national hunt racing in Ireland since Punchestown with three graded races at Tipperary on Sunday, another at Gowran on Saturday and a pair of listed contests at the same track the previous day.

Those graded races at Tipperary are often more about wrapping up the summer jumps than a launchpad to winter success, especially the Horse & Jockey Hurdle won this year by Davids Charm.

Go Native in 2009 is the last winner of that race to enjoy real success in the jumps season proper, winning the Fighting Fifth and Christmas Hurdle afterwards, but the 2019 winner seems unlikely to reach anything like those heights for all that he will have a decent chance in Sunday’s Cesarewitch; he was good on the day but things were set up for him.

It took little winning as his two main market rivals Petit Mouchoir and Ballyoisin went off too fast and while the former lasted longer than his fellow front-runner, it was hardly an ideal return to fray on only his second run outside Grade 1 company since winning his beginners’ chase. A more sedate start to the campaign would have been preferable.

Willie Mullins has used the Joe Mac Novice Hurdle for some of his better types in the last five years, among them Bachasson, Penhill and Quick Grabim, but he had no runner this year and Turnpike Trip didn’t have much to beat; he did do it under a penalty and overcoming a bad mistake at the last.

Of the three graded races, the Like-A-Butterfly Novice Chase has been the best of them recently, Le Richebourg and Rathvinden the last two winners, and Mullins had three in this, all of whom jumped badly.

Robin De Carlow was least bad in this regard and may do better back at three miles though will need to jump better while Put The Kettle On ran another fine race in second and has been one of the most improved performers around this summer.

The action from Gowran on Saturday, particularly the Grade 2 PWC Champion Chase, should have more of a bearing on the upcoming winter races and there were positives and negatives to take from it.

Snow Falcon is the chief positive, at least in the short-term, and his record from September to November in national races now reads:1223151F2111; this is his time of year. He came from a strong crop of 2017/18 novice chasers that included the likes of Al Boum Photo and Kemboy along with numerous big handicap winners and still has potential as he missed out the middle part of last season.

He may not be a true Grade 1 horse in the spring but the three-miles chase at Down Royal in November, now sponsored by Ladbrokes, looks ideal for him and he would have a fitness edge on the likes of Delta Work and Clan Des Obeaux who are also intended runners.

One thing that does seem likely is that he won’t face any Willie Mullins runners there, Florida Pearl his last winner of the race in 1999 and the Champion Trainer has not had a runner in the race since 2014; his best staying chasers have their season built around Leopardstown, Cheltenham and Punchestown.

Us And Them attracted support before finishing third to Snow Falcon and it was a satisfactory return, no more; his jumping, which was such an asset at times last season, has regressed the last twice and there are serious doubts about the quality of the two-mile novice chase division he competed in last year, Chacun Pour Soi excepted.

Nor did Shattered Love put in a particularly positive return, only fifth despite being well-treated at the weights and the ground coming for her. She may have needed the run but ran much better first time up last year and may need dropping back to mares-only company though that may be something Gigginstown are unwilling to do as they have a love-hate relationship with those races. The ideal race for her, the new chase for mares at Cheltenham, may come a year to late.

At Gowran on Friday, Western Victory ran out a good winner of the listed hurdle for mares and was well-backed to do so but the story here might be the trainer Declan Queally who has seen a marked uptick in his fortunes over the past season and a half.

Prior to the start of the 2018/19 campaign, his career record was 11 winners from 178 runners, a strikerate of 6.2% with a place strikerate of 27.5% and an actual over expected of 0.61, standard numbers for a smaller yard.

In the year and a half since, those numbers have sky-rocketed to 18 winners from 74 runners, a strikerate of 24.3% and a place strikerate of 56.7% for an actual over expected of 1.13. Something seems to have changed there and markedly so as those are figures few in the Irish jumps scene can match.

Western Victory was having her second start for Queally having previously been with Colin Bowe and the three others have joined him since the start of last season – Ask Heather, Uisce Solas and Cloudy Morning – have all had their successes too. It will be interesting to see if there are others and if so, how many.

Limerick's Munster National Selection

Eric McNamara went close to winning a first JT McNamara Ladbrokes Munster National last year at his local track when Black Scorpion finished third having looked the winner turning in and while that one is back this year, he might have better claims with INTERNAL TRANSFER.

Unbeaten in three starts at Limerick, he is proven on heavy ground which should be a help on Sunday as the going is already described as soft with plenty of rain forecast.

The eight-year-old only had two starts over fences as a novice last season (both of which came at this track) but won both, beating a decent sort in Young Paddymc by 10 lengths at Christmas before following up in a handicap in April.

Absent for 153 days after that, he shaped well when fourth in the Kerry National last month. Despite conceding fitness to his rivals, he impressed with his jumping for one so inexperienced and did best of those that raced up with a strong pace, his jockey seeming to send him on too early heading out on the final circuit.

That race was a strong contest with one-two Poker Party and Ravenhill appealing as well-treated sorts whereas this looks weaker and while he is unproven over three miles should be able to last the distance ridden with more restraint than last time.

Tony Keenan's Irish Angle

Limerick 16:35, 13 October 2019

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