It was obviously disappointing and frustrating in equal measure that Petit Mouchoir fell when leading 3 out in the Fighting Fifth last week.
I still had an awful lot of horse left, and the way the race panned out you would have to think that he would have gone very close to winning.
I still hadn’t asked anything of him when he was just a little bit too brave at the third last – if anything he was going too well in the lead – and even though he fell I would be inclined to take plenty of positives from the race for him.
I am not saying it would have been strong Grade 1 form even if he had won – you wouldn’t fancy any of the first three home at Newcastle to be placed at Cheltenham on the evidence of that run, even if it was good to see Apple’s Jade coming forward from her Down Royal run – but there are better days ahead for Petit Mouchoir.
I had better luck with a treble at Navan on Sunday.
I thought that I was just beaten on Bull Ride in the handicap hurdle but he had his head down when it mattered, and it was a lot easier on Death Duty in the Grade 3 Hurdle and Empire Of Dirt in the Troytown.
I was eager to get Empire Of Dirt settled and jumping but he was absolutely running away with me throughout, and my only concern was trying to hold on to him for as long as possible. He jumped superbly, too.
I knew that I was going to win at the third last, and he is definitely a Graded horse now. I think he has gone up to a mark 159, and the key to him is a left-handed track and soft ground.
I see Gordon has put him in the Lexus Chase but if they wanted to go down the Grand National route they may well take a different path with him.
But, whatever they choose, he is clearly a fast-improving 9yo who wouldn’t look out of place in much higher company when conditions are in his favour. And, talking of staying chasers, I can report that Don Cossack looks really well at Gordon’s as he continues his comeback from injury.
I haven’t got a strong view on the Tingle Creek at Sandown on Saturday. I actually thought that Un De Sceaux was crying out for a trip last season but they won’t be hanging around here with him and Ar Mad in the race.
Willie’s horse has a massive engine and if he jumps quick and accurately enough – he spent too much time in the air last season – then he could prove tough to beat, but ideally he would want it softer and Sire De Grugy showed a lot of his old sparkle when winning at Ascot last time and goes for his third win in the race.
I wouldn’t be concerned about God’s Own coming back to two miles. He was very good in Punchestown over that trip in April, but to be honest I wouldn’t be surprised if any of the first four in the betting won it.
Here are my thoughts on my four rides at Fairyhouse on Saturday:
A Genie In Abottle
This looks a very good and competitive race, and more like a Graded race than a Beginners’ Chase with the likes of Martello Tower and Taglietelle in here. But my mount was a decent staying hurdler last season, winning over 3m at Naas for me, and shaped well when third on his chasing debut at Galway in October. He is lightly-raced and open to improvement but, like I said, this looks a hot race.
I won a handicap chase over 2m4f on him at Navan in September. He disappointed at Cheltenham next time but he warmed up for this race with a decent spin on the level over 1m4f at Dundalk last month and I still think he is fairly treated on that Navan win and that he has the pace to cope with the step back in trip.
Won his bumper last season and then bounced back from a fall to finish a good third in the Royal Bond in November. He hasn’t raced for over a year but he is a horse we like and good things are expected of him this season. This looks a good starting point for him.
Bel Ami De Sivola
He has to give weight to some fair rivals here but he looks to have returned a much-improved horse this season on the evidence of Punchestown and Down Royal wins. This looks a much better race than he won last time but you have to be very encouraged by the way he is progressing; this is very competitive, though, and he has to prove that he stays this 2m4f trip.
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