This is a very competitive race and Isodon is sure to come on a lot for the experience of his first outing, but he is a lovely horse who gives me a good feel when I sit on him at home. The three Gigginstown horses in here are all similar types but my mount shows the most at home and hopefully that is good enough to make him competitive here. But, as I said, this looks a very strong maiden hurdle and it will take a lot of winning, with the likes of Battleford, Brelade and Joey Sasa in here, so we may have to settle for an encouraging first run out of the places.
I think this is probably my best chance of a winner on the card. He was a top bumper horse last season and is a real good-looker, and he was very impressive on his hurdling debut at Roscommon. This is a big step up in class, from a maiden hurdle win to Grade 3 company, but he has a big engine and he is a horse we rate. Once again, it looks a very tough race though and the other two Gigginstown horses in the race, Monbeg Notorious and Lion In His Heart, are recent winners who certainly can’t be ruled out. It is interesting to see that Barry has chosen Stretchingthetruth over Stand Up And Fight, so they must think a bit of that one, and then you have Willie’s Ballinrobe winner Livelovelaugh, who was a good bumper horse, and the progressive She’s A Star. The more you look at the race the stronger it gets, but I have a fair shot with Death Duty.
He was withdrawn from a race at Punchestown recently as he had a bit of blood coming from his nostrils – he must have banged his head in the stables – but he is fine now. This is a competitive handicap but my horse is obviously lightly-raced and showed improved form to win on good ground at Wexford last time. I think he will stay further, but a mark of 112 is reasonable and this softer ground should be fine for him.
Fire In Soul
He was with Willie last season and won two from three there. I rode him both times to win those hurdles, and I schooled him on Monday in preparation for this Beginners’ Chase and he jumped very well. Henry has done a good job with him, but of course we have Min to contend with and there are a few other decent sorts in here, too. He will improve for the run and may need further, too, but he is a horse that I like.
Empire Of Dirt
Gigginstown have six in here and, as you can probably guess, it wasn’t an easy choice. We haven’t seen Empire Of Dirt since he won at the Cheltenham Festival and he races off a 6lb higher mark here, but he did it very well last time and I still feel that he is a on a decent mark. The key to him is obviously his jumping though; he was bang there when falling three out in this race last season. This is a hugely competitive race but I will pick out two of the opposition as big dangers. I think Sambremont is on a very nice weight but I know Gordon, Davy and the lads in the yard are very sweet on Noble Endeavor. He is a class horse on his day and he was not beaten when falling in the four-miler at Cheltenham; he is on a fair mark on 141 if it all goes right for him.
Fire In His Eyes
I was quite impressed by his recent wins at Punchestown and Fairyhouse. I think this longer trip and softer ground will suit him, and he is a tough horse who has a nice weight, too. He has a lot of positives in another competitive big-field handicap.