Robin Thyme was placed in a few bumpers before finishing fourth on his first start over hurdles in Naas. There was nothing wrong with that run in a Maiden. The fact that he has never won a bumper however is a concern. Balko Des Flos for Willie Mullins won two bumpers, but then jumped poorly on his first start at Navan last month. He’s schooled very well since though, and if he reproduced his bumper runs he’d be hard to beat.
Indian Court for Thomas Mullins has been placed in a couple of hurdle races and has a little bit of form, but Balkos Des Flos is the one we all have to beat.
I could have ridden Royal Caviar in this race, but I opted for Myska. The reason behind this is that Myska won on her first start over hurdles and followed it up with another win Taunton last time out. Royal Caviar has had plenty of chances but has only won one Maiden (finishing second in both his other attempts). Royal Caviar is rated 130 but I’m hopeful Myska is a bit better than that.
Myska’s win in Taunton was on very heavy ground that day, so the ground on Sunday won’t bother her. She’s also won over two miles and six as well as over two miles and she’s an improving mare.
I just hope I’ve picked the right one.
In the Pertemps Qualifier I’m on Rossvoss for Ted. The interesting element to this race is that the top horse, Jimmy Two Times is only rated 133 in Ireland – which is around 136 or 137 in England. At this moment of time he’s the only horse that could run in the Pertemps. The bottom horse in the Pertemps last year had a rating of 136. The first six of this race qualify, but a lot of these are going to have to show their hand on Sunday and get competitive if they want to make the final at the Festival.
Rossvoss will be fine back over hurdles after a poor showing in the Paddy Power Chase over Christmas. He was very cautious over fences, but the switch back will suit. In his last hurdle race he won by 18 lengths in Navan. Saying that, if he’s going to make the final he’s going to have to go very close and get himself a penalty. There’s a lot of horses that could go close here – including Mall Dini and Mydor – and this is going to be super competitive.
Felix Yonger improved considerably to win the rescheduled Hilly Way Chase after finishing third on his first start in Clonmel where he was third behind Road To Riches.
It’s a similar race here as Felix Yonger has to carry a Grade 1 penalty – as do Flemenstar and Twinlight. On official ratings Felix Younger is 160 and we’re giving 8lbs to Mozoltov who is rated 152 so in handicap turns we’re spot on there. Mozoltov ran really well in the Dan Moore Handicap to finish second a few weeks ago. Twinlight hasn’t come back to any sort of form this season, getting pulled up twice, so I’m happy with Felix Younger.
Flemenstar won at Leopardstown over Christmas, but it’s fair to say he was a little lucky with Un De Sceaux falling. He does look like he’s on his way back, and if he’s back to his best he could be tough to beat however.
Days Hotel hasn’t quite scaled the heights that he has in the past, so although it’s a competitive race I’m confident that Felix Younger is in good form and can put in a good race.
Derek O’Conner rode Baie Des Iles last time out at Punchestown and she won very well. She’s only a five year old, but she jumps very well, stays forever and has a lovely weight on her back with 10-4. She could still be improving and she has a huge chance here.
Blood Cotil: (W. Mullins)
Started off his season in the 2m 5f Handicap Chase at Leopardstown on January 17 and despite finishing fifth, he gave me the feel of a horse who would improve for the run.
His form usually gets better in the spring and while he was pulled up in the 2m Grand Annual Chase at Cheltenham last year the ground had turned very soft by then as its the final race on the final day. He got no luck-in-running and I had to pull him up.
But he proved that run (and me) all wrong when beating Irish Cavalier over 2m 5f at Punchestown in May.
Desoto County: (G. Elliott)
The former Donald McCain-trained runner was sent off second fav for the big hurdle race at Leopardstown on the same card and stayed on from the back to finish third. A lot of times you see horses doing that, but they are only beating tired or already beaten runners and it seems more impressive than it actually is.
But Desoto County is lightly-raced and was having just his second run for the Elliott yard. If he was to meet Henry Higgins in the Country Hurdle – I’d fancy him to reverse the form.
Edwuulf: (Aidan O’Brien)
I thought Haymount would take all the beating at Naas in mid-January but Aidan O’Brien’s Edwulf beat him pretty comprehensively.
It rode like a good race and I don’t think his winning will stop at maiden hurdle level. Could still be under the radar and it’s not often you get to say that about an Aidan O’Brien-trained runner.