Martin Brassil reports City Island in prime form as he attempts to follow up his Cheltenham Festival victory in the Alanna Homes Champion Novice Hurdle at Punchestown.
The six-year-old ran out a ready two-length winner over Champ in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, and the second has gone to frank the form when winning at Aintree.
“He bounced back after Cheltenham and seems to have taken his race very well,” said Brassil.
“We trained City Island for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, so I was always hopeful that when he turned up there he would put up a good performance – and it just happened to work out that he won.
“It was good to see Champ coming out to win at Aintree – the form of most of City Island’s races seems to be working out well.”
City Island’s rivals include five from the Willie Mullins stable – Come To Me, Easy Game, Royal Rendezvous, Tornado Flyer and Eglantine Du Seuil.
Come To Me is reported to be ready to return to the fray following 90 days off.
“He was very impressive on his first run but was disappointing on his next couple of runs, so we’ve freshened him up and deliberately missed Cheltenham and Fairyhouse to come here,” said Mullins’ assistant, David Casey.
“If he produces what we think he can produce then he’d run well, but he’s going to have step up on what he has done on his last couple of runs.”
Easy Game has been consistent all season and was only beaten a length in third place behind Dommage Pour Toi at Fairyhouse four weeks ago.
“Easy Game has been running well all season and has been hard at it all along. He is taking his racing well, and we’re hoping for a good run,” said Casey.
Royal Rendezvous is coming back after completing a hat-trick at Galway in October.
“He’s a horse we really like. He was very impressive in his maiden hurdle, and in his bumper wins,” said Casey.
“He had a bit of an issue and has had a break. He’s a very decent horse. Hopefully the long break won’t be against him, and he can be competitive.”
Tornado Flyer is already something of a course specialist, which should stand him in good stead.
“It was very good run last year when he won the Champion Bumper in Punchestown – and he won his maiden hurdle there, so he likes the place,” said Casey.
“He was obviously disappointing in the Grade One in Naas. He had a bit of an issue after that race. We’ve freshened him up. He seems fine now and has been working very well.
“We’d be very hopeful of a good run.”
Eglantine Du Seuil caused a 50-1 upset in the mares’ novice hurdle at Cheltenham, and was third at Fairyhouse recently.
“She won the mares novice in Cheltenham. It was a little bit unexpected, because we didn’t think she’d have enough experience for it, but she proved us wrong,” said Casey.
“She was third in the mares Grade One at Fairyhouse behind Honeysuckle. That is the only thing. If it hasn’t taken its toll then she be competitive. She’s a decent mare.”
Robbie Power was impressed with Reserve Tank in the Mersey Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree, where he sprang a 20-1 surprise.
The jockey is looking forward to teaming up with Colin Tizzard’s smart prospect again.
“He won the two-and-a-half in Aintree and is an exciting horse,” said Power.
“He’s improving and is only a five-year-old. It was a big step up in class in Aintree – but he won very well, and it will be interesting to see how he stands up against the Irish ones.
“I was really impressed with him in Aintree – that was a decent novice hurdle and there were some good horses in it.”