English racing got the better of things quality-wise over the weekend, Cyrname versus Altior the headline act with the Betfair Chase an excellent supporting race, while graded racing was thin on the ground in Ireland. The only graded action here over the past seven days was the Monksfield Novice Hurdle at Navan, a race decimated by non-runners which left Fury Road to win at 1/25, the SP likely to be the shortest of the season.
There were some interesting contests over the weekend though and a whistle-stop tour through some of them is the plan this week. Gowran on Saturday had to overcome an early-morning inspection and the ground was very testing with most races run at a sensible gallop given conditions.
One-time Royal Bond entry Franco De Port ran out a good winner in the two-mile novice hurdle and hits a trainer angle, Willie Mullins having won the same race with Douvan and Sharjah in the recent past. It may not have taken much winning this time as his main market rival Sixshooter had the dubious honour of hitting seven out of the nine hurdles while the time was ordinary, over four seconds slower than the earlier course-and-distance maiden hurdle won by Easywork.
The two-and-a-half mile conditions chase was another race that produced a slow pace and emphasised speed; that was no problem to Getabird who was keen and jumped well, looking like one that could drop back in distance if necessary. He was tried over three miles at Punchestown last April but ran poorly off a break over a trip that looked way too far.
There is a case to be made that he should be unbeaten over fences other than that run, a mistake at the last costing him at Limerick last Christmas, and is one to be positive on though connections could face a challenge placing him unless he is going to compete against Min and Un De Sceaux.
Paloma Blue came back to form in the first-time tongue-tie, jumping better than has often been the case and handing the deep ground well, but such was the lack of pace it might be unwise to draw too many conclusions from this.
The one to take from it may be Castlebrook, allowing that these bold-jumping chasing types can sometimes draw one in too easily. He was in the right place in the lead here but lacked the speed of the others in the straight and would have been suited by more emphasis on stamina and/or a longer trip. This was a good effort against most experienced rivals on just his second chase start.
Laurina was the star turn on the card in winning on chase debut though her jumping was just ok and Henry De Bromhead raised concerns about how ready Minella Indo was. She won easily, as she often does, and the Champion Hurdle fifth patently wasn’t her form (traded 1/3 before emptying), though Mullins did raise the disappointing spectre that she could go back to mares-only races after this. She might rival Fury Road for the shortest price of the campaign in those!
Chris’s Dream was impressive in every aspect of his Troytown win at Navan, travelling and jumping well before seeing out his race strongly, albeit a little flattered by Fitzhenry weakening after the second last as he has done in the past. Connections posited the theory afterwards that Chris’s Dream is best fresh with both the Thyestes and Irish Gold Cup mentioned for him afterwards; the timing of those races would give him the requisite break but being fresh at the start of the season and off a mid-season break are not always the same thing.
Navan might also be a thing with him – he is unbeaten in three runs over this chase course – though there are few suitable races for him here over the rest of the season beyond perhaps the Webster Cup over two miles in the spring, a trip that would likely be too short.
Cash Back was another to hit the Willie Mullins favourite race angle in winning the beginners’ chase earlier on the card; the trainer has won the race with Vautour and Min amongst others in the past. He also mentioned the winner in the same sentence as Laurina and Tornado Flyer afterwards, expressing the desire to keep the three apart but taking interviews from Mullins at their word can be risky.
Cash Back is a keen sort who put in some aggressive jumps, notably four out, but his superiority may have been exaggerated by Capuccimix weakening in the finish. This race didn’t look as good as the one contested over course-and-distance by Fakir D’Oudairies and Melon at the previous meeting, a theory that had to remain untested as the third from that race (I’m A Game Changer) fell down the back.
Bigbadandbeautiful again looked a mare going places in taking the closing listed bumper though the Champion Bumper will not be one of those places; she doesn’t qualify for that race having already had too many runs.
The Irish graded bumpers have more relaxed entry criteria and she has the option of such races at the Dublin Racing Festival and at Punchestown later, the last-named race won by a second-season bumper mare last term in Colreevy.
She could of course go over hurdles, but Gordon Elliott seems keen to keep her to bumpers for the moment and mentioned a flat campaign at one point, something that will please Jamie Codd no end who rode her with supreme confidence and was raving about her afterwards.