The two greatest flat turf horses of the last 35 years are, arguably, Dancing Brave and Frankel and both raced in the famous green, pink sash and cap and white sleeves of Prince Khalid Abdullah who died on Tuesday. The hope is that his colours continue to grace British and Irish racing although it would be no surprise if his family cut back on their racing and bloodstock interests going forward.
Top class action in Ireland this afternoon after Naas rescheduled their meeting abandoned from last week due to waterlogging. The feature race is the Grade 1 Lawlor’s of Naas Novices’ Hurdle.
Ashdale Bob brings the best hurdle form into the race having won a G2 Navan Novice last time but I am not convinced it was the strongest race for the grade and I am a big admirer of Bob Olinger (2.20) and hope to see him book his place in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the Festival in March.
The selection – 6/4 at Boylesports – has only lost one of four career starts and that was when behind last year’s Festival Bumper winner Ferny Hollow on his hurdles debut at Gowran Park in November. If he is to go to the very top over hurdles, he will have to jump with more fluency than he has so far, but he has some engine and gets the vote ahead of the Willie Mullins runner Blue Lord who beat Julies Stowaway at Punchestown on debut. Note the latter ran a very moderate race at Fairyhouse on Tuesday.
Only four go to post for the Novices’ Chase, but it is a terrific encounter with Captain Guinness (1.20) and Energumene going head-to-head and preference for the latter is marginal in what is genuine Arkle trial. The winner is likely to be the chief Irish rival to Shishkin at Cheltenham in two months’ time with Envoi Allen earmarked for the Marsh Novices’ Chase, although Franco Du Port and Andy Dufresne may have something to say about that at the end of the month. I hope it’s a red-letter day for Henry de Bromhead and Rachel Blackmore and the selection is 2/1 with 10bet.
Captain Guinness was brought down two out in the Supreme last March when still going well and put behind a disappointing chase debut when landing the odds at Punchestown last month. Energumene jumped out to his right slightly at Gowran last time and he cannot afford such a luxury against Captain Guinness. Another midweek treat.
There is a terrific Veterans’ Chase at Plumpton and Cyclop was, arguably, unlucky not to land the Lincolnshire National at Market Rasen over 3m 3f last time but has been raised 5lbs for that effort and may find things happening too quickly around these tight turns dropping back slightly in trip. Bangor winner Snuff Box and Orchardstown Cross are others to consider but, at a double figure price, I must give another chance to 12-y-old Alberto’s Dream (2.30).
The ew selection – 10s with William Hill – was bumped by the eventual winner Western Climate when unseating his jockey at the first at Warwick on New Year’s Eve and I like the booking of Jack Tudor for Katy Price’s veteran.
Eurkash did us a favour when scoring at Bangor last time but I did not think it was much of a race and preference is for the hat-trick seeking High Up In The Air (3.30) whose 7lbs penalty for scoring here over further earlier in the month is negated by his rider’s claim. He is 2lbs “well-in” under his penalty and can make most although he may not get a soft lead with Fethard Flyer one of several potential rivals for the lead. The odds against has gone and Gary Moore’s novice is Evens with William Hill.
Embole (4.00) made all to gain his only win to date for Dan Skelton but was ridden with exaggerated waiting tactics when runner up at Fontwell on his reappearance. He travelled like much the best horse in the race on that occasion over an extended 2m 1f but finished weakly. He has been raised 2lbs for that effort but the return to 2m will suit and he is taken to go one better. The selection is 6/4 with BetVictor.
At Leicester, No Risk Des Flos is likely to be a warm order in the Novice Hurdle having scored at Uttoxeter last month for Olly Murphy whose string have been in outstanding form in recent days. He must give 13lbs, however, to the mare Fontaine Collonges (3.40) who gets the vote having finished third in what I felt was a hot Wincanton mares event on Boxing Day. A dual Bumper winner the mare – 6/4 with 10bet – will get further in time, but I hope to see her get off the mark in the finale.