Posted Thurs. Jan. 7th 12noon
We are at that time of the year when all trainers with any Cheltenham aspirations must have a good look round the yard and plan their March runners. The likes of Mullins, Nicholls and Henderson have no issues with winning handicaps, Philip Hobbs and Alan King have had solid seasons with fit, healthy horses, David Pipe and Jonjo O’Neill could do with a couple of Festival winners and Pipe has some real dark ones and Messrs Fry, Skelton, Greatrex and Pauling could well have the ammunition to land a Festival handicap. The Irish hordes will be hoping Gordon Elliott and possibly Henry de Bromhead and the currently under achieving Noel Meade could hit the target.
So I’ve had a trawl through the formbook to find some horses to put in our trackers that could come up trumps in a big handicap at a big price between now and the end of Punchestown. Some will need a “quiet” run, some will need to win to get in and all will hopefully improve when meeting big fields, a strong run race and ground that has the word “Good” in it somewhere!
Willie Mullins under the radar, second strings, Festival Handicappers?
Last year Willie Mullins won two handicaps at Cheltenham, Kiltullagh Vic battled his way to the Martin Pipe Conditionals and Wicklow Brave won the County looking like he and Paul Townend had joined in at the second last! So probably not ridden by Ruby Walsh and probably not owned by Gigginstown, the Wylies or the Ricci’s (had to include a few in the Mr Blobby colours!) what has the wily Mr Mullins got that might win at odds against!!
OPEN EAGLE 7yo Won the 2014 November Handicap at Doncaster in a hack canter. Hasn’t looked a natural hurdler in his three starts to date but the owners are hoping for some Festival action. Will he be entered in any of the handicaps? Probably finish fourth in the Coral Cup before finishing second in the Melbourne Cup!
Steve Massey, who manages the owning Supreme Horse syndicate, said: ” We were delighted with Open Eagle. “He jumped and travelled well and was beaten by a very good horse on the day. He got in a little bit tight to the second-last, but he kept going to finish seven lengths clear of a horse rated 140, so we’ve got to be pleased. Willie thinks he needs stepping up in trip now, so that will be the plan for his next run. We have a few options, there’s a race at Warwick, a race at Ascot and the Neptune trial at Cheltenham at the end of the month. There are also races in Ireland, obviously. He’s an exciting prospect and hopefully we’ll get him to Cheltenham in March.” OR???h
BLEU ET ROUGE 5yo Twice now I have heard Ruby Walsh wax lyrical about this French Bred owned by JP McManus. Blue et Rouge won his maiden and was immediately put into the Grade 1 PP Future Champions at Leopardstown behind Long Dog. What path will they choose? Lots more to come and the sort that could look a second string with Geraghty on board and be a price!
PETIT MOUCHOIR 5yo Thought good enough to run in the G1 PP Future Champions novice at Leopardstown with a bit more experience I think he could be very good. This French bred son of Al Namix cost Gigginstown 100K euros as an unraced 3yo! Winner of his Irish PtP, the Goffs Land Rover bumper at the Punchestown Festival for Gordon Elliott and a Thurles Maiden Hurdle the world is very much his lobster!! Another who could easily upset one of the sexier types at a price.
DIAKALI 5yo OR153h Fascinating horse who one can only presume is a little fragile. He’s run well at Punchestown, Cheltenham and Auteuil but I’ve included him because he has an OR153 and in 2014 he was 2nd at 25/1 in the County off OR154! Last seen in July ’15 when an unplaced 4/1 Favourite in the Galway Hurdle. One run and bang?!
DICOSIMO 5yo OR137h Looked one of the better Irish juveniles but was disappointing in the Triumph when 8th behind Peace and Co and was probably over the top by Fairyhouse in May but bounced back winning at Limerick first time up and that Official Rating looks very workable.
ARBRE DE VIE 6yo OR149h Fourth in last years Alfred Bartlett and not seen since second in a 2m4f Grade B handicap hurdle at Punchestown in May. Trainer suggested he was going chasing?
Gordon Elliott Festival Handicappers?
CAMPEADOR 3yo Trainer likes this JP McManus grey, having run in two hurdle races in France he made his Irish debut in Grade 2 company finishing 4th to Apple’s Jade, and I can see the Fred Winter angle.
Trainer told Dave Keena on 20th November 2015 “He is a nice horse that came to us from France. He is cantering away and he looks a nice horse for those juvenile hurdles. We are still learning about him and I am not sure yet where he’ll start off, but he has settled in well.”
“…Campeador did well to finish where he did after pulling hard throughout. The application of a hood should help his chances in future and given connections, he could easily be a candidate for the Fred Winter.” 2015/16 Christmas & New Year Racing Review January 3, 2016 Adam Webb
CAPTAIN VON TRAPPE 7yo 136ch Clearly highly thought of having run in the Florida Pearl and the Drinmore as a novice and weighted to win something big. Not a winter ground horse and his programme will no doubt be planned accordingly.
Trainer told Dave Keena on 20th November 2015 “He ran very well the other day at Punchestown and that performance open up more options for him. He stays very well and anywhere from two and a half plus suits him and he’ll go for a graded chase somewhere this side of Christmas. He has a bit to go yet, but he might develop into an Irish National horse.”
NOBLE ENDEAVOR 7yo OR146h Son of Flemensfirth who was just pipped by Kiltullagh Vic in the Martin Pipe last March is progressing over fences. Needs a mark of 140 or under to get in 2m5f novice handicap on the Tuesday of Cheltenham, not enough experience for the Plate. Might he step up in trip? Suitable Novice 2m5f handicap at Punchestown on the Friday.
Trainer told Dave Keena on 20th November 2015 “He was a good horse over hurdles and with a bit of luck, he’ll develop into a good staying novice chaser.”
Noel Meade’s absent army?
APACHE STRONGHOLD Second to Vautour in that JLT last March when I thought he was going to win running to three out! Fell in the G1 at Fairyhouse and 3rd to Valseur Lido in the G1 Growise over 3m+ at Punchestown and not seen since!
DE NAME ESCAPES ME OR134h Just piled into 14/1 PP are offering for the Coral.ie Hurdle (ex-Boylesports) on Sunday January 17th. Already in #startracking.
DISKO 5yo son of Martaline who is the apple of his trainer’s eye. About a stone behind Bellshill on Bumper form and has only won a Punchestown bumper and a Willie Mullins-less maiden hurdle but he did win them by 15L and 29L!! At some stage he’s got to step into the Mullins infested waters that is Graded company. Interesting!
GUNNERY SERGEANT Looks short of Graded company and his handicap mark will be eagerly awaited. Don’t think we have seen the best of this 6yo son of Presenting yet and he was the subject of positive reports from the Irish PtP scouts.
ICE COLD SOUL Has been put in with some decent horses in his novice races, the likes of Anibale Fly, Mall Dini, Tombstone and Up for Review and made full use of a lenient opening handicap mark of OR114 and was raised 9lbs to OR123. Have a feeling this 6yo son of Stowaway may still be well treated, “led approaching last, stayed on well run-in”, doesn’t suggest all out!
RATHNURE REBEL Not seen since he beat Three Musketeers by 10l on his only start in an Irish PtP! Where the hell is he Noel?
Written on the Betbright Blog in December 2014!! “Rathnure Rebel A son of Beneficial who made a strong impression when winning his sole start in an Irish point-to-point. Now in the care of Noel Meade and owned by the powerful Gigginstown House Stud operation the five-year-old is representing eyecatching connections. The form of his run at Dromahane has yet to be tested on the race-track, but the pointing form looks useful. Having won by ten lengths the third horse home – beaten 16 lengths -would go on to finish runner-up in a good race on his next start. While that form looks sound his pedigree also took our eye. By a strong national hunt sire his dam is an unraced half-sister to 1m4f Flat/bumper/smart 2m3f-3m hurdle winner Sweet Kiln (by Beneficial) and useful bumper/2m-3m hurdle winner Earth Magic being from family of top-class hurdler Limestone Lad. With that sort of bloodline it’s not a surprise Gigginstown House Stud came on board – especially with the point-to-point win looking sound. The same duo of Meade and O’Leary combined to take last season’s Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Rathnure Rebel take a similar route, if proving up to that class.”
ROAD TO RICHES Multiple grade 1 winner but I’m not sure he gets a yard over three miles. As a 9yo if he’s ready to go you would have to imagine 2016 would be his last real go at a Festival big one.
WAXIES DARGLE Love this horse but two points of note. Firstly needs winter ground, soft and worse and secondly he’s probably five pounds too high in the handicap. Thought he might go chasing?
FALCON CREST 6yo OR136h Another for JP McManus that looked classy when winning his maiden hurdle at Fairyhouse and again winning the G2 Monksfield Hurdle at Navan before finding it a bit tougher in the G1 behind Long Dog. They could have some fun with that handicap mark as the horse has a few gears off a strong pace.
“Falcon Crest travelled well before finding little for pressure in the closing stages. Having had three starts over hurdles, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if he got an entry for the Boylesports Hurdle at the end of January off a mark of 136 where he would be a well handicapped improving type.” 2015/16 Christmas & New Year Racing Review January 3, 2016 Adam Webb
WINDSOR PARK Dermot Weld is a master at getting horses spot on for “their” day as he showed with this chap who kindly obliged in the Neptune at Cheltenham last year, cheered home by me and my bank manager! World Hurdle seems an obvious target but Weld brought him out over two miles Christmas time and he had a jolly gallop! The World Hurdle market is dominated by Thistlecrack who sort of came from left field and if Windsor Park did turn up at Cheltenham on better ground that Neptune form was really strong. He had Nicholls Canyon over 5l back in third, maybe Windsor Park will step back in trip as the Neptune-Champion route has been popular with Irish trainers and if Faugheen and Nicholls Canyon take each other on he could pick up the bits? That’s 50/1 with Stan James!!