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two for Sunday - 17/1/2016


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2.25 Leopardstown (Sunday) – The coral.ie Hurdle Grade B.



This could quite possibly one of the most difficult races on the calendar to try and decipher with nine JP McManus representatives and two each from Rich Ricci, Gigginstown and Barry Connell making up the majority of the twenty-five strong field. Then factor in the six stables involved with multiple runners, and this turns into an absolute minefield.


Willie Mullins is responsible for four of the field and all have decent claims. Ivan Grozny is quite rightly the outsider of the quartet on his return from nearly two years off the track. He could well still retain the ability for a race of this nature but it is a big ask coming back from such a lengthy absence and may well have been left in the field to bring the weights down for the more fancied Mullins runners, headed by KALKIR. The lightly-raced five-year-old looked like one of the top juvenile last campaign until pulling up in the Triumph Hurdle.


 He was only narrowly out-battled by stablemate Petite Parisienne in the Grade 1 Spring Juvenile Hurdle over course and distance last February which makes a mark of 137 look rather appealing. Ruby Walsh has opted to take his services elsewhere but the gallant grey has top French rider Jacques Ricou aboard, who rode him on his only run in France, and remains of great interest. In truth, there is very little between him and Walsh’s chosen mount Buiseness Sivola apart from the latter being well beaten by Petite Parisienne in the Champion Four Year Old Hurdle at Punchestown. However, I remember seeing him get beat when an odds-on favourite on his stable debut last year, albeit to a fairly smart animal, and he didn’t immediately strike as a star in the making. He looked laboured when push came to shove and I have a nagging doubt that he may need a race or two to really get his eye in. Mullins’ other runner, Bamako Moriviere, looks to be the Ricci second-string and is a bit of an unknown quantity. He was previously quite smart over in France before finishing a well beaten third in a Listed Hurdle at Limerick over Christmas. He holds the same entries as his stablemates so is obviously well thought of.


If you thought it was a battle to evaluate the Mullins quartet, the JP McManus’ brigade is even more of a puzzle. Both of Noel Meade’s runners carry the green and gold and De Name Escapes Me looks to be a leading contender. The unexposed novice arrives in search of the hat-trick having had a break since easily winning at Fairyhouse in late November. He is progressing nicely and once again has the services of Mark Walsh in the saddle which undoubtedly gives a major boost to his chances. Meade’s other runner, Waxies Dargle, is a stalwart in the top 2m handicap hurdles on both sides of the Irish Sea. He was a good third behind Old Guard in the Greatwood but has to bounce back from a lacklustre effort in the Ladbroke at Ascot in December, possibly inconvenienced by a wide passage throughout. He is now back down 4lb to his mark at Cheltenham so is weighted to be competitive and will land one of these contests sooner rather than later.


Tom Mullins is responsible for another pair of McManus runners, both of which hold fair claims. Sir Scorpion sneaks in near the bottom of the weights and would be given a chance if returning from a break ready to fire. He finished second behind subsequent Champion Bumper winner Moon Racer at Fairyhouse but he didn’t start to realise his potential over the sticks until switched to handicaps. Since then he has reeled off a pair of decent wins and would be given a chance if his progression continues. The more interesting of the two is Princely Conn who gave his stablemate 26lb when narrowly beaten at Leopardstown last February. On the back of that, he was a well-fancied favourite in the County Hurdle but failed to land a telling blow. He was disappointing at Punchestown on his final start but he was more than likely over the top by then giving he had been on the go since July. His runs this year can be ignored as he was out of his depth in the Grade 2 WKD Hurdle on his reappearance and never went a yard over 2m4f at Navan in December. A return to form is taken on trust but he is the type to make his mark in races such as these.


Somewhat surprisingly, Barry Geraghty has opted to ride After Rain for J R Barry on only his second start in a handicap. He was well beaten starting out over hurdles but landed the odds in fine style with Geraghty in the saddle at Killarney in August to break his duck. His latest outing was most encouraging as he finished third in a similar contest to with a subsequent winner a couple of lengths in front of him. A 2lb rise for that seems very fair considering and he can only have learnt from that experience. His handler has another good chance with Bentelimar, although a 1lb rise for being beaten eighteen lengths last-time-out does seem rather harsh.


Another of the McManus brigade to be wary of is Whatsforuwontgobyu following his easy winner over course and distance three weeks. Tony Martin’s has been hit with a 10lb rise by the assessor for that but it is not totally out of the question that he could still be ahead of the handicapper given his connections. Of Martin’s remaining trio, Okotoks makes most appeal if reproducing the form shown when he landed a Cork maiden hurdle in November. He was stretched by 2m4f in a Grade 2 at Navan on his latest start and a return to the minimum trip can only be in his favour.


Gordon Elliott is another trainer to be wary of in these types of handicaps and Desoto County looks to be a contender with Jack Kennedy taking 5lb off his back. The seven-year-old is another who has improved immeasurably since leaving Donald McCain and landed the odds at Thurles last month in good style. A 10lb rise in the weights hinders his claims somewhat but he could prove to be a handicap blot. Cliff House chased him home at Thurles but looks to be slightly out of his depth in a race of this class.





KALKIR – 1pt e/w @ 14/1 (Paddy Power)




3.00 Leopardstown – Coral.Ie Leopardstown Handicap Chase.



There will be plenty of interest in Fine Rightly in the market with the eight-year-old having won on three of his last four visits to the racecourse. His latest success in December saw him win off a mark of 140 and whilst a further 7lb rise will make life more difficult, it is hard to rule him out on that basis. When you think that the horse he beat in a Grade 3 Rule The World is now rated 148, that suggests that he should still be competitive off his current mark.


Another lightly-raced runner is Gordon Elliott’s Killer Crow who has only had six starts over fences to date and won for the first time at Navan in December. He failed to justify favouritism over Christmas as novicey mistakes let him down and he could only finish second. Bryan Cooper replaces Kevin Sexton here in the hope that will improve the seven-year-old’s jumping and if he can put in a clear round, he looks a major player with just 10st 1lb on his back.


There are also a couple of veterans in the field including Seabass who won this race in 2012 and whose stablemate Foxrock also landed the prize twelve months ago. The now thirteen-year-old is only 4lb higher than he was in the 2012 renewal and having been freshened up with a couple of spins over hurdles, connections will no doubt be hopeful that it can revive his fortunes over the larger obstacles.


A final one to mention is Lyreen Legend who was a smart novice chaser in 2013, finishing second to Lord Windermere in the RSA at the Cheltenham Festival. He finished sixth in the following season’s Gold Cup but missed over a year before returning at Thurles in November. There wasn’t much encouragement to take from his run over hurdles at Christmas either but he has always been highly thought of by the yard, and whilst today might not be the day, he is worth keeping an eye on.


Having said all of that, I am going to side with the class horse in the race, the top-weight BLOOD COTIL. Willie Mullins’ seven-year-old has not been seen since getting the better of the now rated 154 Irish Cavalier at Punchestown in May. Clearly we are taking a chance on fitness with him being off the track for over 250 days but there is reason to think he might still be well in on a mark of 153. This intermediate trip appears to be his optimum and with the ground unlikely to be an issue, he gets the nod at around 13/2.




BLOOD COTIL – 1pt e/w @ 13/2 (Paddy Power)

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