I think the English juveniles are just that little bit better than ours as it stands but all of our best ones are in here and I imagine the winner of this will be second or third favourite for the Triumph Hurdle afterwards. Ruby wouldn’t have had it easy choosing between Bapaume and Meri Devie – the latter looked a very good filly when beating Housesofparliament over course and distance over Christmas – but it is understandable that he went with Bapaume. I know he thought he should have won when beaten by Landofhopeandglory at Fairyhouse and he made amends when beating that rival and Mega Fortune here on Boxing Day, when they went a proper gallop. I think he is the one to beat but Joseph has three in here and his Bhutan, a once-raced winner on the Flat, is very interesting and Sword Fighter was rated 112 on the level, though he has yet to do it over hurdles. We have Dinaria Des Obeaux in here and I think she surprised us all when winning at Cork. It was a bad race but she couldn’t have done it any better and she is another unknown quantity in what looks a very strong race.
I think Saturnas is the solid one in here and probably the one to beat after seeing off Brelade here over Christmas but it really would have been very hard for Ruby to choose between Willie’s six in this race. They are all lightly-raced and unexposed winners with any amount of improvement in them – Willie must have won every maiden hurdle this side of Christmas over here – and who knows what will come out best? I’ve certainly been caught out a few times. We have Blood Crazed Tiger and Barra in the race and they have it to prove in this company – the former is a 3m winner and may find this 2m2f trip too sharp and Barra bounced back from a disappointing defeat for me when winning at Fairyhouse last time – and I think Brelade could be a fair each-way bet. He was beaten fair and square last time but I do think the extra 2f will suit him.
I think Bellshill could take a lot of beating in this. He was a very fair sort as a hurdler and I have been very impressed with him over fences. He should have too much pace for Our Duke over this 2m5f trip, as Our Duke wanted every yard of the three miles to win a Grade 1 here last time. A Toi Phil got up close to home to win off a mark of 143 here last time but this is a big step up in class and if any of our three are to come out best it could be Disko. He was only beaten a length by Our Duke last time and I don’t think the step back in trip will be any problem whatsoever for him. He could give Bellshill most to do, in fact.
This is some renewal of the Irish Gold Cup but I do think Carlingford Lough could prove hard to beat in his bid for a hat-trick in the race. He clearly goes well here and would have been trained for the race after running pretty well in a 2m hurdle at Navan last time and I’m not surprised Barry has chosen him over Minella Rocco and More Of That; if he comes back to the form of his Punchestown defeat of Djakadam in April then he is very much the one to beat. Sizing John has to be respected if staying but we have a very strong hand with our three runners, too. Don Poli looked back to his best after a spell hunting when second in the Lexus last time and Davey keeps the ride after getting such a good tune out of him there, and Empire Of Dirt really impressed me when winning the Troytown but this is a step up in class again. I wouldn’t be in a rush to rule out Road To Riches at 16-1, either. I said after Cheltenham last year that they should try him in cheekpieces and he is tried in them for the first time here. He didn’t run up to his best in the Lexus last time but on his best form he would have a far better chance than his big odds suggest.
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