Some say Samcro disappointed at Down Royal, where he was picked off by the fitter Bedrock (Rachael Blackmore), but Kennedy won’t be hanging around today, writes Ruby Walsh
I’m in Fairyhouse this afternoon, but today is all about two races in the UK: the Ladbrokes Trophy is a prestigious race, but the biggest story for national hunt racing today is the Fighting Fifth Hurdle in Newcastle.
With the exception of Supasundae and whatever Willie Mullins has, this is, effectively, the Champion Hurdle. You have the reigning Champion Hurdler, Buveur D’air, taking on the winners of the two main novice hurdle races from last season’s Cheltenham Festival.
There are a hundred ways to look at it, but this is my reading of it. Summerville Boy was very good in winning the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Festival, but in this company he will not get away with jumping the way he did that day. To win that race with the way he jumped tells us he must have a huge amount of natural ability, but his jumping has to improve considerably and so I’m happy enough to go against him.
Buveur D’air is a dual Champion Hurdler and the last time he was beaten was at the 2016 Cheltenham Festival, when he was third behind Altior and Min in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. He is now going into his third season of racing in open company and has not been beaten, which tells you the quality of horse he is.
Then there is the mighty Samcro. Some say he was disappointing on his seasonal debut, at Down Royal, but I don’t think he was. It was a strongly-run race and he came there two out to win his race, but a much fitter horse, Bedrock, picked him off.
Because of that run, I’m siding with him today — and maybe only for today.
Many people seem to think the sharp track will suit Buveur D’air more than Samcro, but there’s a four-furlong straight at Newcastle and non-stayers don’t win on that type of track.
I expect Jack Kennedy won’t be hanging around on Samcro. He has fitness on his side this time and I think that might be the winning of the race.
In Newbury, it’s a bit unfortunate that Kemboy didn’t get across the Irish Sea for the Ladbrokes Trophy.
As a result, we have no runner. There is a small field for today’s renewal, but that’s reflective of the going more than anything else.
Elegant Escape has a good chance, and I know Richard Johnson is sweet on Thomas Patrick, but I think Sam Waley-Cohen on The Young Master, having made virtually all the running when winning at Cheltenham last week, will try and do the same again, and that will set up the race for the strong-staying Ms Parfois. With 11-1 on her back, she makes more appeal than Elegant Escape or Black Corton.
Fairyhouse kicks off with a beginners’ chase, and we run Dolciano Dici. He will strip much fitter than at Navan and we expect him to run a lot better, and at least get into the shake-up.
My first ride is on Diamond Hill, who joins our other runner, Defy De Mee, in the maiden hurdle. She is race-fit and experienced and hopefully will go well, while Defy De Mee was disappointing in two runs for us last year, but seems to be a better horse this year. That said, they could both struggle to beat Lone Wolf and Column Of Fire.
My second ride is Eclat Des Mottes, who runs in the rated novice hurdle. He was very green, but stayed on well to win at Downpatrick. We hope he is a bit better than his rating, but the handicapper has a knack of being right about these things.
We run Miss Shoe City in the bumper. She finished fourth in Thurles on debut and will probably have to improve a lot to win a Fairyhouse bumper.
The real excitement in Ireland is tomorrow’s card in Fairyhouse. We have no runner in the juvenile hurdle, which opens the card, but I was mightily impressed with Coeur Sublime when he won at Down Royal and expect he’ll take beating.
We are doubly represented in the Royal Bond, and I ride Quick Grabim. Aramon beat him in Navan, but it was a messy race and as it began in earnest Quick Grabim made a mistake and Aramon got a flyer, and, giving away 7lbs, I was never able to peg him back.
I’m hoping he can reverse that form and uphold previous form with Triplicate, but the two unknowns are Gordon Elliott’s two runners: Commander Of Fleet and Tintangle.
Commander Of Fleet has a huge reputation and won impressively on his hurdling debut. He could be anything, but experience will count for much in this race and Quick Grabim has plenty of that. He looks to be my best ride of the weekend.
Paul Townend rides Cadmium in the Drinmore. He has been a consistent sort, but has to improve to beat Discorama, Delta Work, Jetz and the one I fancy: Le Richebourg. I was mightily impressed with Joseph O’Brien’s horse on his two starts over fences and think he will take beating.
Paul rides Undressed in the Porterstown Chase. He’s a staying chaser and not catching any pigeons at home, but you wouldn’t expect that from a horse that wants a trip. He is fit and well and should give a good account of himself.
Apple’s Jade has won the last two runnings of the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle and she is one of the stars of national hunt racing right now. She’s an incredible little mare, she was very good in the Lismullen Hurdle on her return and looking at her in that race you’d have to think she will be even better going right-handed. She will take plenty of beating in her hat-trick bid.
We have four runners and I have gone with Limini. She hasn’t run over hurdles since finishing third to Apple’s Jade in the Mares’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in 2017. She was a bit disappointing on her last few starts on the flat, but she’s a very good mare on her day and if she could run into the money I’d be delighted. Like Willie Mullins’ other runners, she has to improve to beat Supasundae, let alone Apple’s Jade.
Bapaume ended the season on a high with victory in the Prix la Barka in France and he is improving, so we’d be hopeful he could go well. Shaneshill is a bit in and out, but some of his best runs are when he is fresh.
Wicklow Brave was very disappointing in the Morgiana Hurdle and unless the step up in trip ignites some spark in him it’s hard to fancy him.
We have six runners in the handicap hurdle and of the one I could have ridden I could have made a good case for them all, so I’m only hoping I’m on the right one. I ride Saglawy, who was a consistent sort in juvenile hurdles. Hopefully, he has improved over the summer and if he has he should go well.
Stratum was a good winner at Newbury and we think he is unexposed over hurdles, though he lacks experience.
Causey Arch is fit from a summer’s racing and has a nice weight, while Sapphire Lady has regained her form. While she is dropping in trip, she has just 10-2 on her back and is entitled to take her chance. A similar comment applies to Cut The Mustard, though she lost her way after winning a maiden last season.
Blazer was disappointing in the Kerry National, but ran a blinder in the Galway Hurdle and, on that form, he should be bang there.
Stones And Roses is our runner in the bumper. He’s ready to give a good account of himself, but the hype from the Elliott yard regarding Malone Road was well founded, and there’s plenty of hype around their runner, Envoi Allen.