Lucky 15 February 27th

Monday 6.00pm Today is Willie Mullins Cheltenham Media day and it looks like Kevin Blake from at the races is quickest out of the blocks and so I’ll pass the quotes on. More details in Tuesdays Racing Post. I believe it’s Gordon Elliott tomorrow.

 Willie Mullins Mon. Feb. 27th. This is not the full team, I believe he paraded 34 for the press and I wouldn’t even have that down as the full team! Please take Willie’s thoughts with as many pinches of salt as you may feel necessary!

AIRLIE BEACH “I imagine she’ll run in the Mares’ Novice Hurdle and while it is looking like being a tough race, she’s in great form.”

ARCTIC FIRE “He is in good order and has worked well. We thought about entering him in the Champion Hurdle, but decided not to as we didn’t think he’d be ready, but he is coming along nicely so we have entered him in the County Hurdle. I’d say he’s still only 50/50 to be ready in time and we’ll see what he’s like in the coming days.”

AUGUSTA KATE “I think she’s going to need a longer trip, so we are thinking about the Albert Bartlett for her at the moment. I wouldn’t be afraid to take on Death Duty again, as she was running a fine race upsides him when falling last time.”

BACARDYS “He surprised us a little bit when he won the Deloitte. I was happy with how he did it given the tactics we used on him, as he’s a horse that should stay further. He will probably go for the Neptune rather than the Albert Bartlett.”

BALLYWARD “He has been entered in the Champion Bumper, but he pulled a muscle the other day and we’ll have to see how he recovers from that before making a decision on his participation.”

BAPAUME “The plan is to run him in the Triumph Hurdle. He’ll need to improve to win it, but I’d be hoping he can be competitive.”

BELLSHILL “I don’t know what to make of his last run, though he did run poorly at that meeting last season too. He seemed in better form this morning, to be fair to him. We ran him in the wrong race at Cheltenham last season and I think he’ll end up going for one of the longer novice chases this year, either the RSA Chase or the National Hunt Chase.

BUNK OFF EARLY “The Supreme Novices’ Hurdle looks to be the race for him. He is by Zebedee, but we were hopeful that he would get the trip over hurdles based on his form on the Flat. He is a strong horse in the mornings and has taken a good grip in his races. He ran very well in the Deloitte and based on that, the shorter trip of the Supreme should suit him.”

CARTER MCKAY “He looks the pick of our bumper horses based on what he did in his last start and he will run in the Champion Bumper. Any horse that can win as he did at Naas is a fair machine. I can’t imagine the ground will be any great concern for him regardless of how it turns up. We haven’t talked about riding plans for the bumpers yet, but it might be hard to dislodge Patrick off him!”

DJAKADAM “He’s in great form. Going into the Gold Cup last season he had to come back from that bad cut he got at Cheltenham and we only just had him ready in time, but we’ve had a much clearer run with him this season and fingers crossed it will stay like that. We decided to not run him in the Irish Gold Cup as the fact that it was a week closer to the Cheltenham Gold Cup wasn’t ideal. I think he is a more mature horse this season and is the age that many chasers are in their prime. I was happy with his run in the Lexus, but afterwards we felt we could have used different tactics that might have worked better. The most important thing is that everything has gone right for him lately. I don’t know if he’ll need to improve on what he has done in the last two years to win the race this year.

DOUVAN “He’s in great form and everything has gone smoothly with him. He’s a huge horse and it’s rare for one of his size to stay as sound as he has. At this stage we are just hoping he gets to the Champion Chase in one piece and after that, we’ll hope things go right on the day. He’s easy to watch in the mornings, as he’s a lovely relaxed horse that is ridden by Holly every day and they go round there at their own pace. Even with horses like that, there is always the possibility that something stupid will happen, so we just focus on keeping them right and getting them there. When you go to Cheltenham with a strong favourite, it’s always a case of relief rather than joy when they win. We aren’t thinking beyond this year’s Cheltenham Festival with him. That is our focus.”

FOOTPAD “He will run in the Champion Hurdle. We are hoping that Cheltenham will suit him better than Petit Mouchoir, so wherever he finishes, we are hopeful we’ll be ahead of him.“

INVITATION ONLY “He’s only 50/50 to get to Cheltenham at this stage and we might keep him for Fairyhouse. We had a little bit of a setback with him and I just haven’t been 100% happy with him since. That said, he has been a bit better in recent days, but the worry is whether I have enough done with him to get him to Cheltenham.”

LET’S DANCE “The obvious race for her would be the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle, but she could slot in anywhere. We have a few nice horses that are eligible for the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle and some of them are likely to have to take each other on in it. I think the step up in trip has been a big help to her, as is the fact that she has more hurdling experience than most novices.”

LIMINI “I went to Punchestown questioning whether I was mad to run her there, as it was hard to see her not having a hard race with Apple’s Jade in there. With just three weeks to Cheltenham that would be far from ideal, so I debated whether I should take her out of the race or not. I just hoped it wouldn’t turn into a slog and everything fell into place for her. I was very happy with how well she settled and jumped. While I thought she had improved based on homework, I wasn’t sure she had improved that much and that leads you to question whether Apple’s Jade ran up to her form. However, more important is that Limini didn’t have a hard race and has come out of it well. We haven’t made a decision on her Cheltenham target yet, but I’d say it’s 50/50 between the Champion Hurdle and the Mares’ Hurdle. I had a quick chat with Rich and we both said we wouldn’t chat much more about it until the morning when she would have to be supplemented for the Champion Hurdle. A lot depends on how Vroum Vroum Mag is between now and then too, but the more I think about, if Vroum Vroum is fine and sparkling, we might take a punt with Limini and run in the Champion Hurdle.”

MELON “He’s a fine, strong, tall horse with plenty of ability, but is one that lacks experience. We are likely to have plenty of runners in the race including Bunk Off Early who has Grade 1 form, but based on homework, I’d say it will be an easy enough decision for Ruby to ride Melon. He has only had one run over hurdles, though we did train Fiveforthree to win the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle on just his second start over hurdles, so we’ve done it before albeit not in the Supreme. He has plenty of jumping experience at home and he seems a natural jumper too. I wouldn’t be worried about his lack of experience from a mental perspective either.”

MERI DEVIE “She’ll run in the Triumph Hurdle and I think she’s a lot better than she showed in the Spring Juvenile. I probably gave her too much time off after her maiden hurdle win and maybe she needs to be trained more like a gelding. I will train her a good bit harder between now and Cheltenham and I’d be hopeful that would bring about improvement. I know Ruby had a lot of time for her and wanted to ride her in the Spring Juvenile, but I pretty much made him ride Bapaume as he had the form in the book. I’m sure he’ll have a good think about which one to ride at Cheltenham.”

NICHOLS CANYON “I’m not so sure about Nichols Canyon. He has had an in-and-out season and I might just leave him off until the Punchestown Festival. I’ve changed a few things with home recently and if he starts to sparkle, he might go to Cheltenham yet, but at the moment he isn’t looking the likeliest of runners there.”

PENHILL “The Albert Bartlett is the plan for him and I think three miles on better ground will suit him well. It was always the plan to freshen him up after Christmas, he has had no setbacks and is in great order. Stepping up in trip seemed to help his jumping last time and he has the ability to compete at that level.”

ROYAL CAVIAR “He’s in great order and definitely goes for the Arkle. He wouldn’t have a typical profile of an Arkle horse, but he jumps very well and we think he’ll like better ground, so we’re hopeful for a good run.”

SATURNAS “He is after pulling a muscle and he didn’t ride out this morning. I’m hoping it’s just a muscle issue and he’ll be alright in a few days, but we’ll have to wait and see with it.”

SHANESHILL “The Stayers’ Hurdle is the plan for him. I think he has improved a bit and he looks to have a solid each-way chance.”

UN DE SCEAUX “Regardless of the ground, the Ryanair Chase is the plan for him at the moment. I’m not worried about his stamina given that he won over two-and-a-half miles on heavy ground in France as a four-year-old. He is a lot more settled now than he was then and I felt his last run showed just how well he can settle nowadays. The Champion Hurdle has been raised as a possibility for him by some in recent weeks, but it has never really come into my mind for him. He is never an easy horse to watch, as he’s a bit like Hurricane Fly in that every morning he goes out, he wants to race and be competitive. With a horse that does that, you’re just always wondering whether he can get away with doing that every morning without pulling a muscle or overreaching. That he has stayed sound is a testament to him.”

VROUM VROUM MAG “She ran terrible at Doncaster last time! We think she might have been brewing some sort of a cold, so we gave her antibiotics when she came home and she seems to be coming back to herself in recent days. We would find it difficult to run her in a Champion Hurdle off the back of that performance, so the Mares’ Hurdle seems the obvious target for her. She is likely to go back over fences at some stage, but the hurdle programme is suiting her well at the moment. “

WICKLOW BRAVE “I think he will run in the Champion Hurdle. He has won at the track and that will stand to him. The softer the ground, the better his chance.”

YORKHILL “The JLT is the plan and all is good with him. We aren’t considering the Arkle for him, but if Altior wants to take us on in the JLT, he’s quite welcome to! The Champion Hurdle was very much in my mind for him earlier this season and it was nearly Christmas by the time we decided to send him chasing, at which stage we still had Faugheen and Annie Power in the mix for the Champion Hurdle. I did briefly think about switching him back to hurdles after those two met with their setbacks, but I had a quick chat with Graham Wylie and we decided to stick with our original decision.”

No sign of the handicappers and not all his entries in the novice hurdles nor Bumper mentioned. Basically nothing new!

Tuesday Lucky 15

I am sorry but I’ve been through tomorrows Jumps cards at Leicester and Catterick a couple of times and with winter ground, small fields, hunter chases I just can’t find four selections to put in a Lucky 15 and so it will just have to be the one selection and it’s each way at that!!

Leicester 2.10                         THREEOFAKIND                      7/1 Ladbrokes 13/2 general                               

In his last run he looked to be getting his chasing act together, jumping better and moving into contention he was hampered and unseated his rider! The same jockey, Conor Shoemark, is aboard again tomorrow and off a mark of just OR104 trainer Fergal O’Brien seems to have found an ideal opportunity for Three of a Kind to open his account over 2m4f+ over the larger obstacles on this Soft (Good to Soft in places) ground.


Saturday Lucky 15

Just too many places Saturday with Double Shuffle and Knockanrawley second and Shogun Paddy third! If you don’t go in that holding, heavy ground you simply don’t!

Kempton 1.15                        ARGANTE                                PU 6/1

“Nico de Boinville, the rider of ARGANTE (FR), which was pulled up, reported that the gelding stopped quickly. The Veterinary Officer reported that a post-race examination of ARGANTE (FR) during routine testing revealed the gelding to be suffering from cardiac arrhythmia.” I think that’s an irregular heartbeat to you and me!

Kempton 3.00                        CAPTAIN FOREZ                     Non Runner

Chepstow 3.40                       RED HANRAHAN                    PU 8/1

Always rear, never competitive. Couldn’t see a lot in the murky conditions!

Kempton 4.10                        FULL SHIFT                              2nd 13/8F

I never learn! Gets going too late and I just wonder if this horse is inappropriately named!! Keeps a bit for himself?

Further Cheltenham News

Joseph O’Brien expects Landofhopeandglory to go for gold in the JCB Triumph Hurdle at next month’s Cheltenham Festival. The four-year-old also has entries in the Fred Winter, the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and the Neptune. However, after finishing third behind Dinaria Des Obeaux in a Grade Three event at Fairyhouse on Saturday, O’Brien believes the Triumph on March 17 is the most likely option. He said: “Landofhopeandglory ran well as he hadn’t run for two months and it was heavy ground. I was happy with him. More than likely he will go for the Triumph rather than the Fred Winter. He seems OK and hopefully he will be OK during the week.” Joseph O’ Brien February 27 2017, 11:11

O’Brien is also mulling a run in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper for West Coast Time, who was beaten by Carter McKay at Naas earlier this month. He added: “West Coast Time is a possible for the Bumper at Cheltenham, but he wouldn’t want the ground too quick. He won well in soft ground at Cork.” Joseph O’ Brien February 27 2017, 11:11 Latest news Sunday February 26 Alan might have to wait a while to hear whether Barry Geraghty will choose Yanworth over Nicky Henderson’s Buveur d’Or as his mount for next month’s Champion Hurdle, but after Saturday’s double at Kempton several more pieces in the Barbury jigsaw for the Cheltenham Festival were slotted into place. Reflecting on another excellent day, Alan said:”River Frost might skip Cheltenham altogether, but Master Blueyes, who was impressive in winning the Adonis, has earned his place in the Triumph Hurdle field. I wasn’t sure we had one good enough for the Triumph this year, but Master Blueyes has come on enormously these last couple of weeks, so much so that we decided to find out just where we stood by running him at Kempton. It was annoying that Wayne was not allowed to ride after his fall at Exeter on Friday, but Tom Bellamy seized his chance and rode a super race. That victory at Ludlow gave Master Blueyes so much confidence, so it looks like the Triumph for him with Coeur de Lion, who is owned by another of the Barbury Lions syndicates put together by former Warwick chairman David Hill, likely to head for the Fred Winter at Cheltenham. We ran Elgin in the Dovecote to see whether it was worth going for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle on the opening day, and, though he was beaten fair and square by River Wylde, I thought he ran a super race and was pleased how well he battled after his mistake at the last, so we’ll probably take our chance at Cheltenham, too.”  “We are absolutely thrilled to have Rory Delargy (@helynsar) on board as our “Irish Columnist” this season. For his first article, Rory picks out five Festival dark-horses to watch closely when they make the trip from Ireland to Cheltenham next month…

Everyone with a passing knowledge of recent racing history will expect Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott to have a major say in the distribution of prizemoney at Cheltenham in March, but it is a naïve man who believes that only these two yards should be given serious consideration when running the rule over the contenders, and there were no less than five winners from other Irish stables at last year’s Festival. So who are the horses from the less-fashionable Irish yards who should be noted this time around? There are plenty, and some of them need little introduction such is the strength of their claims. Here are five of the less obvious ones:

Mall Dini (Pat Kelly) It might be a little cheeky to include last year’s Pertemps winner as a dark horse, but trainer Pat Kelly, who trains this son of Milan for Philip Reynolds is a shrewd operator, and there is no doubt that Mall Dini is a fair bit better than he’s shown over fences, his runs coming over trips short of what will be his optimum, and this ex-pointer jumps well enough (aside from a chance-ending mistake last time) to suggest he will be even better as a chaser than he was over timber. His win in the Pertemps came off a BHA mark of 139, and the Irish handicapper has dropped him to 141 after his latest start. We need to wait until next week to discover what Phil Smith’s assessment is, but it will be disappointing if he’s more than a couple of pounds higher here than he is at home, in which case he would look very interesting in either the Ultima on Tuesday, or the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir on the New Course two days later. Kelly has tended to seek the services of Davy Russell for him in the past, so the Ultima is the obvious race, but the stiffer test of the Kim Muir might actually suit better, so it will be intriguing to see what race is preferred. He’s also in the National Hunt Chase on the opening day, but that looks an unlikely option.

Powersbomb (Brian McMahon)

This is a more left-field suggestion, and with a Turf Club rating of 130, he could do with the BHA team being on the harsh side if he’s going to make the cut for the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase on Tuesday of Cheltenham, but he wouldn’t be out of place in terms of ability, his latest second in a competitive Leopardstown affair likely to have been a win but for a bad error at the second last fence – going into the fence he was travelling well in a narrow lead, but after propping badly on landing, found himself relegated to sixth. The fact that he could battle back to regain the lead on the run-in says plenty for both his talent and resolution, and the only horse to come out of that race since has been successful. He has been transformed by a switch to front running over fences, and while the fact that he’s hit the deck twice will put plenty off, it’s notable that 50% of previous winners of this race had previously fallen over fences. Brian McMahon could not be more obscure as a trainer, and the County Sligo handler was gaining his first winner over fences when Powersbomb won a maiden chase at Clonmel in December.

Scoir Mear (Tom Mullins)

Tom Mullins has already got his name on the Festival roll of honour with Alderwood winning the County Hurdle in 2012 and the Grand Annual a year later, and like that horse, Scoir Mear is owned by JP McManus. Having shown promise in bumpers under different ownership, the son of Exit To Nowhere was beaten an aggregate of 240 lengths on his first four starts over hurdles, but he’s progressed well since switched to handicaps, overcoming an early tendency to runner-up ace freely in winning his first two starts this season, and he’s run even better when second the last twice, giving the impression he would have been unbeaten this season under different circumstances, pressing on early enough when caught by the well-regarded Automated at Navan (the useful Gurteen fully twenty lengths back in third), and then given a bit too much to do when runner-up to Moores Road at Cork last time. He’s guaranteed a run in the Coral Cup, and is one to take very seriously indeed.

Presenting Percy (Pat Kelly) Pat Kelly has fewer runners than the majority of Irish trainers, but eight of his 49 runners in the last year have obliged, including Mall Dini at the Cheltenham Festival, and he’s making an audacious to win back-to-back Pertemps Finals with Presenting Percy, who also sports the silks of Philip Reynolds. The son of Sir Percy absolutely bolted up in a competitive handicap at Fairyhouse on Saturday, and while that win will serve notice to the British Handicapper as to how smart he is, it’s no bad thing to advertise your well-being in the month before Cheltenham, and as long as he isn’t hit with a rise of a stone or more, he looks to have a tremendous chance in Thursday’s three-mile contest. The ground was heavy at Fairyhouse, but the six-year-old gelding has a good-ground action and ought not be inconvenienced by underfoot conditions whatever the weather does.

Velvet Maker (Alan Fleming) On the face of it, Alan Fleming’s Velvet Maker was disappointing in last year’s Johnny Henderson Grand Annual, but it’s clear watching a replay that he paid for being given an overly-aggressive ride by Adrian Heskin, and that is unlikely to be the case now that the ice-cool Denis O’Regan has taken over as owner Barry Connell’s stable jockey, and the veteran rider is in his element when riding front runners. Velvet Maker has only run once since last year’s Festival, and shaped with loads of promise when third to Grand Partner at Leopardstown a couple of weeks ago, travelling like the best horse throughout but beaten by a combination of lack of fitness, a rare last-flight error and interference on the run-in. He is engaged in races over hurdles and fences, but the County Hurdle is fiendishly tough, whereas another crack at the Grand Annual looks a more realistic assignment, and he will arrive fresher than most.


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