A few winning selections yesterday. Today is much tougher but we have hopefully highlighted some value again. Just a reminder that these are not official selections for any service, just our blog writer’s picks.
DRF Day 2
The Irish Stallion Farms E.B.F Paddy Mullins Mares Handicap Hurdle (Grade B) – 2m2f
Last year’s winner: Sassy Diva (100/30F)
Trainer: Shane Crawley
Jockey: Donagh Meyler
Sassy Diva landed quite a punt in this race last year. What that highlighted to us, is how potentially well handicapped some mares could be after getting beaten in better company by superior animals. In Sassy Diva’s case last year, she was not disgraced by Honeysuckle on her previous outing. Jeremy’s Flame fits this particular bill after finishing second to Fiddlerontheroof in Grade 1 company at Sandown last time out and although she carries her fair share of weight today, Jeremy’s Flame may well be better than handicap grade. Harry Fry sends over Ena Baie for her third consecutive start in Ireland and it is difficult not to like her credentials. In both her last two runs over hurdles, Ena Baie has appeared to need this step up in trip and she gets it today. This extra two furlongs coupled with the fact it is a mares only race makes this look like a match made in heaven for Ena Baie.
The Tattersalls Ireland Spring Juvenile Hurdle (Grade 1) – 2m
Last year’s winner: Sir Erec (13/8F)
Trainer: Joseph Patrick O’Brien
Jockey: Mark Walsh
Sir Erec was a terrific winner of the Spring Juvenile last year, beating his stablemate Gardens Of Babylon by six lengths. Sir Erec was sent off at astonishingly short odds of 11/10 for the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham. However, tragedy struck on Sir Erec’s next start when he was fatally injured in a freak accident at Cheltenham. Sir Erec was one of the most promising juveniles in recent memories and it is most disappointing that we will miss out on what could have been a glittering career. This season sees Aspire Tower, a general 4/7 favourite, attempt to stamp his superiority over the other Irish juveniles. To be brutally honest, the Irish juvenile scene has felt quite lacklustre this season, possibly suggesting it is a below average year. Or maybe, Aspire Tower is an absolute aeroplane. However, I suspect it is the former. Historically, this is not a race to be backing odds on favourites in. Espoir D’allen’s only defeat of his career was in this race as the 4/5 favourite in 2017. Going back a little further, Ivanovich Gorbatov was beaten at odds of 8/13, while Ivan Grozny tasted defeat when sent off at odds of 9/10 in 2014. Plenty can change with these four-year-olds in a short space of time. Now the question is, who can you take Aspire Tower on with? I would gladly have John McConnell’s Never Do Nothing. At an each way price of 8/1, Never Do Nothing was last seen making a winning hurdling debut at Musselburgh on New Year’s Day under talented claimer Donal McInerny. Never Do Nothing accounted for two previous winners at Musselburgh, albeit he was receiving plenty of weight from his rivals. It should also be noted that Never Do Nothing actually got the better of Aspire Tower in a flat handicap at Ascot last August. Obviously Aspire Tower has improved since then and both horses have switched to the hurdling discipline, but this does highlight that Never Do Nothing possesses a serious engine. There could be a serious amount of improvement to come from Never Do Nothing. He will likely finish in the first three, as the race lacks strength and depth.
The Chanelle Pharma Novice Hurdle (Grade 1) – 2m
Last year’s winner: Klassical Dream (9/4F)
Trainer: Willie Mullins
Jockey: Ruby Walsh
Klassical Dream was an extremely gutsy winner of last year’s Pharma Novice Hurdle, when just edging out Aramon. There was plenty of deliberation to where Klassical Dream would run after this win. Connections opted for the Supreme Novice’s Hurdle and they were rewarded with a scintillating performance. This season has not gone to plan for Klassical Dream, however. The six-year-old will try and get back on track in the Irish Champion Hurdle. At the head of the market is Easywork. After thrashing Unexcepted in extremely testing ground at Limerick, Easywork may well be up to this sort of test. It must be highlighted that the ground at Limerick over the Christmas period was absolutely desperate and borderline unfit for purpose and it is rarely a meeting I take fully at face value. This particular small field novice event that Easywork won by twenty-two lengths must be taken with a pinch of salt. However, Easywork was a relatively comfortable winner over the likely reopposing Mt Leinster last November. That form is definitely more trustworthy as Mt Leinster was an excellent nine length winner of a traditionally strong Leopardstown maiden on December 26th. It is highly likely Mt Leinster has improved significantly since November and there is no guarantee Easywork will hold this form with Willie Mullins’ six-year-old.
It is hard to fancy Blue Sari as the lightly raced five-year-old has not looked himself since submitting to Envoi Allen in a gruelling Champion Bumper last March. Asterion Forlonge takes a surprising step up to Grade 1 company after landing a maiden last time out. Asterion Forlonge is still very raw and may need more time. Although there are plenty of superlatives you can throw at Easywork, he is the most likely winner here.
The William Fry Handicap Hurdle (Grade B) – 3m
Last year’s winner: Dalles Des Pictons (7/2JF)
Trainer: Gordon Elliott
Jockey: Jack Kennedy
Dalles Des Pictons was a good winner of this race before finding only Early Doors too good in Martin Pipe handicap hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. Taking the exact same route to this race is Column Of Fire. Owned by Gigginstown and trained by Gordon Elliott, Column of Fire is virtually mirroring the season Dalles Des Pictons had last year and it would be no surprise to see him go well. This is the toughest handicap of the weekend to get my head around. Cabaret Queen, who has a 26lb lower hurdles mark now heads the market after getting in as a reserve. Although, taking a price of 4/1 about a mare who has not run over hurdles since May 2018 and there is no guarantee she will relish such a test. At a huge price, Thomas Mullins saddles Court Maid. Although the yard has endured a quiet spell this season, Court Maid ran encouragingly at Navan last time out. A pair of sixth place finishes in graded company behind Dommage Pour Toi and Honeysuckle last season do not read badly in this handicap and off a mark of 127 and six places available, you could certainly find worse outsiders.
Flogas Novice Chase (Grade 1) – 2m5f
Last year’s winner: La Bague Au Roi (10/11F)
Trainer: Warren Greatrex
Jockey: Richard Johnson
La Bague Au Roi’s second Grade 1 during her novice chasing career was in the Flogas Novice Chase. This has been her last win to date as her second season over the larger obstacles has not gone to plan. The nine-year-old mare is back this season for the Irish Gold Cup. This year we have the potential duel of Faugheen, the twelve-year-old novice, against Battleoverdoyen, the seven-year-old who has a record of six wins from seven lifetime starts. Timeform and the handicapper were both extremely impressed with Faugheen’s effort against Samcro at Limerick. However, I will mention again, form around Limerick at Christmas time should not be taken as gospel. That did not stop Timeform from rating Faugheen as this season’s best novice chaser thus far. The English handicapper also gave Samcro a handicap rating of 157 when he got a provisional entry for a Cheltenham handicap on trials day last week. Nobody really knows what the handicapper would give Faugheen if Samcro got that lofty mark. Tornado Flyer has looked as much a two mile chaser as you or I and he will certainly appreciate this five furlong step up in trip. The likelihood is he will improve significantly and possibly get involved. My personal preference in the Flogas novice is Easy Game. After getting thrashed on his hurdles reappearance by Honeysuckle, Willie Mullins’ six-year-old was backed late from 8/1 into 9/2 to beat subsequent winner Allaho on his chasing debut late last December. That form has been franked by Allaho and it would come as little surprise if Easygame was to build on that course and distance success here.
The Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup (Grade 1) – 3m
Last year’s winner: Bellshill (2/1)
Trainer: Willie Mullins
Jockey: Ruby Walsh
Leopardstown’s blue ribboned event of their National Hunt season is the Irish Gold Cup. Ground conditions ruined what was a depleted renewal of last year’s race, won by Bellshill. That did not stop the race from serving up a thrilling finish nonetheless. It would not be surprising to see the ground a little quicker than usual again this year and as a result, it may prove worthwhile finding a horse that likes decent ground at an each way price. Nine horses remain in the race, however, I would expect three horses at the minimum not to run should the ground come up quick. They are Anibale Fly and more significantly Presenting Percy and Delta Work. It goes without saying Kemboy would go off at odds on should Presenting Percy and Delta Work defer this race, so some punters may take the general 13/8 available about last year’s Aintree and Punchestown festival winner in the hope bookmakers cut the price shorter even after the rule 4 is taken into effect. There is potentially some rain to fall on Sunday morning, possibly around four milliliters, but with Leopardstown being excellent for water drainage, participation of some of the protagonists may hinge on how much water Leopardstown put on the track themselves. After last year’s exploits, it is obvious Bellshill will not be inconvenienced by the ground, however, Road To Respect was really not himself, making a heap of jumping errors. With Outlander and The Storyteller being Bellshill’s only other opponents that day, it is hard to get excited about that form. La Bague Au Roi should be respected as a Grade 1 novice winner on this card last year, but her form this year leaves plenty to be desired. It is virtually impossible to make a case for Jett. That leaves Chris’ Dream and Cadmium. Both of these horses achieved their best pieces of form in handicap company, with Chris’ Dream scooting off with the Troytown Chase while Cadmium was a very impressive winner of the Topham Chase at Aintree. Chris’ Dream will likely run but the quicker ground will prove a real hindrance to him. At 50/1, I believe Cadmium is the real each way value in this race. A proven performer on decent ground, Cadmium is also an assured jumper and while he will try a new trip in Grade 1 company, a mark of 160 entitles Cadmium to at least take his chance here. My greatest concern for Cadmium is the trip but a decent run may set him up for a crack at something like the Ryanair Chase. This is a horse that is totally under the radar with improvement still likely.
The Gaelic Plant Hire Leopardstown Steeplechase (Grade B) – 2m5f
Last year’s winner: Whisperinthebreeze (7/1)
Trainer: Jessica Harrington
Jockey: Paddy Kennedy
Two horses at decent prices that are worth considering here are Shady Operator and Glamorgan Duke. Shady Operator returned to form with a good run behind Sumos Novios at Limerick. Going back to his good ground form, where he managed to defeat Ballyward in a beginners chase at Punchestown. Should Shady Operator get back to that level of form, he would prove to be well treated off a mark of 134. As for Glamorgan Duke, it appears he has been getting prepped for a race of this nature all year. Paul Gilligan’s seven-year-old got within ten lengths of Grade 1 winner Battleoverdoyen on chasing debut before finishing behind Fury Road over hurdles and Faugheen over fences, both in graded company. Glamorga Duke was not given the hardest of times behind Ice Cold Soul at Thurles last time out and it looks evidnet that connections have been plotting an assault on this big pot. On his fifth chase start today, a rating of 125 almost certainly underestimates and he should be taken seriously at a big price.
The Coolmore NH (Mares) I.N.H Flat Race (Grade 2) – 2m
Last year’s winner: Santa Rossa (3/1)
Trainer: Dermot McLoughlin
Jockey: Finian Maguire
Rounding off a terrific weekend’s racing is a mares bumper. Relegate was a winner of this race in 2018 before winning the Champion Bumper at 25/1 so it is definitely a race worth keeping tabs on. Lorna Fowler is not a name that is popular in the training ranks, yet. Her team sent out a 66/1 winner of a warm looking Down Royal bumper earlier this week and Politesse represents her today. Although having not been seen for 275 days, Politesse was third on her debut behind yesterday’s Grade 1 placed Longhouse Poet and the impressive Thurles scorer, Monkfish. That is very respectful form and she will go well at an each way price. Her main dangers will be Bigbadandbeautiful, who is seeking a four timer and is odds on to do so, while Castra Vetera’s bumper form has also been boosted and she is sure to go well for top connections.
12:55 Ena Baie – 1pt win @ 6/1 (Bet365, Betfair, Paddy Power)
1:25 Never Do Nothing – 1pt ew @ 15/2 (General)
2pt win w/o the favourite @ 3/1 (General)
1:55 – No bet advised
2:30 – Court Maid – 0.5pt ew @ 40/1 (Betfair, Paddy Power, SkyBet 6 places)
3:00 – Easy Game – 2pt win @ 11/2 (General)
3:30 – Cadmium – 0.5pt ew @ 50/1 (General)
0.5 ew betting w/o Kemboy @ 28/1 (Bet365)
4:00 – Shady Operator – 1pt ew @ 12/1 (Bet365)
10/1 available with 6 places (Paddy Power & Betfair)
4:00 – Glamorgan Duke – 1pt ew @ 40/1 (Coral 5 places)
33/1 & 6 places available (Paddy Power & Betfair)
4:35 – Politesse – 1pt ew @ 12/1 (Bet365)