He didn’t get any further than the first at Gowran last week but he does jump well at home – and has done since that fall, too – and he seems none the worse for the experience. There aren’t many juvenile races this side of Christmas, so he takes his chance here, but this is clearly a very hot race. I would just favour Down Royal winner Mega Fortune over Landofhopeandglory even if he clearly doesn’t have the Flat form of Joseph’s horse. But Willie and Ruby are also represented in here by his French winner Bapaume, and this will take some winning. I’d settle for third now, in truth.
If the juvenile race is warm, this is red-hot. I’d say a win for any of the seven in here would not surprise – Ruby has chosen Penhill but I was impressed by his stablemate Saturnas at Naas – but hopefully I will come out on top. A lot of people were talking about him before his win at Cork last month and he did not disappoint. That was a race where a few were fancied and highly-regarded going into it, but he did it well. It is obviously a big step up from a maiden hurdle win to a Grade 1 but he is a horse we really rate. However, the connections of plenty of others in here will feel the same, and Gordon’s Labaik has been working well since Navan, and Airlie Beach has obviously been in great form since the summer.
She hasn’t returned to her juvenile best just yet but her narrow second to Irving in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle last week was a big step in the right direction. But she did have a hard race there, and the quick turnaround would be a worry, though I think the step up to 2m4f will suit her. The other concern would be if the ground was too fast for her here; I imagine we may take a look at it on Sunday morning. I think Vroum Vroum Mag will take a lot of beating, though, even if we do run. I was very impressed by her when she beat me on Identity Thief at Punchestown and she is a very good horse. You have to respect Shaneshill on form, but I am not sure if he will have the pace to win this over 2m4f.
She has gone up 3lb for her good second at Punchestown last month, but I think that is probably fair enough. She has a nice racing weight and has proved very consistent since winning here in March, including on the Flat. It is just a question of whether the handicapper has caught up with her. He may well have, but I hope not. I think Campeador could be the one to beat in what is clearly a very competitive race. He was coming home strongly when falling at the last in the Fred Winter and could prove to be the pick of JP’s seven. He looks to be on a fair mark.
A Toi Phil
We have four in here, so let’s hope that I have chosen correctly this time. I didn’t when I opted for Disko over A Toi Phil at Punchestown last time, where I was left with a rear view of Gordon’s horse quickening up really well between the last two en route to a comprehensive 7-length win. This is clearly another rise in class again to Grade 1 company, but you had to be impressed by that Punchestown win. I was, anyway. Alpha Des Obeaux clearly has a big chance, too – the World Hurdle runner-up looks to have taken well to fences – but I just think 2m4f on good ground may just be on the sharp side for him. There are plenty of others in with a good shout as well, notably Diamond King, who is a horse that I have a lot of time and respect for.
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