Empire Of Dirt
We missed the first and I was always on the back foot thereafter in the Ryanair, but I think it was simply a case of the ground being a bit too quick over a trip short of his best that day. He clearly ran below par there though, and hopefully you will see a different horse today. If he returns to the form of his second to Sizing John in the Irish Gold Cup over 3m at Leopardstown then we are certainly bang there with every chance. Cue Card probably still sets the form standard and won this race last year after falling at the same fence at Cheltenham, but he is an 11yo now and not getting any younger and I am happy to be taking him on. This doesn’t look a very deep race but Bristol De Mai ran well in the Gold Cup and is probably best of the rest. I’ll be disappointed if we don’t see a much better performance from my horse under these conditions, and the step back up in trip could be key to his chances.
We could all be playing for places if Buveur D’Air proves as effective over 2m4f as he was when winning the Champion Hurdle so impressively. The trip is the big question mark for him, but on what we have seen – and he also beat Petit Mouchoir at this meeting last season – then he clearly will take a lot of beating. I think Identity Thief will benefit from the step back up in trip, and the return to hurdling. Chasing just didn’t work out for him after a promising start and, although his best recent hurdling form has come over 2m, he is a year older now and had good 2m4f form earlier in his career. But he has to run a career-best to be winning this if the others run to form, that much is true. He has done plenty of schooling over hurdles, though, and he seemed in real good order when I sat on him at home last week.
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