We head to Dublin for Ireland’s biggest weekend in racing. All the stable stars come out to strut their stuff before they stuff the British at Cheltenham. It’s always a good indicator to see where each Willie Mullins runner will be heading to in March, but there is a bit of value to be found in the slightly more open novice races. Plus there’s a decent card at Sandown to keep an eye on in today’s Four To Follow.
1:20 – Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors Novice Hurdle (Grade 1) – Loughglynn @ 9/2 (William Hill)
It’s telling which horse Paul Townend picks to ride in each race for Mullins, and the market is always keen to latch on. I feel though, he’s chosen the wrong horse. Predators Gold hasn’t raced above two-and-a-half miles and was beaten, in heavy ground, last time out. The inexperience may show here.
Loughglynn is a far more accomplished novice. His win at Grade Two level at Limerick over Christmas showed that this horse has an engine to stay. It won’t be as boggy as Limerick, so has momentum to build on from his maiden win at Punchestown. Well backed Jetara has been running against the girls so far and might find this race a bit too hot.
Mullins & McManus
1:50 – Spring Juvenile Hurdle (Grade One) – Majborough @ 11/2 (William Hill)
Once again Townend has opted to go for the Gigginstown colours in Storm Heart, who looked like a Grade One juvenile when obliterating his rivals in the mud.
But there was talk of Majborough early in the season and I’ve been excited to see this horse appear. It’s a sign you’re a good horse when JP McManus buys you. It’s even better when he sends you to Closutton. It becomes even more exciting when you’re first race in Ireland is in a Grade One. If that’s how much connections think of him, there must be something in the water.
2:35 – Scilly Isles’ Novices’ Chase (Grade One) – Le Patron @ 7/2 (General)
Le Patron is the only Grade One winner in the field. And despite Harry Cobden saying that Hermes Allen was at his best in the Kauto Star on Boxing Day, he still got beat. Le Patron won in bottomless over two miles, but he seemed at his best when winning over C&D back in November. JPR One gave the form a boost when winning the Lightning Novices’ Chase at Lingfield a couple of weeks ago.
The other big trend is that Paul Nicholls hasn’t won this race since 2009 and it’s unclear if this will be a stepping stone for Hermes Allen to the Festival. This is a race that Le Patron has been trained for.
3:10 – Heroes Handicap Hurdle (Premier H’cap) – West Balboa @ 8/1 (Betfred)
West Balboa always comes alive in handicaps at this level, and she seems primed once more. After finishing way back in the Long Walk field, she’s had a rest and is back under top weight. Tristan Durell takes off a crucial three pounds to make her mark a little more accessible and she can out race this field in these conditions, which could set her up nicely for a shot at the Pertemps.
Good Luck Charm was an outside chance in the Lanzarote at Kempton but outran her odds to finish fourth and within a length to favourite Impose Toi. Stepped up in distance, she remains on the same mark and is weighted towards the very bottom of the field. She’s been priced more fairly at 10/1 (Boylesports) but has a huge chance of running to them this time around.
Equinus won by five lengths at Aintree way back in October and has had some respectable finishes in class two company. James Turner has been booked once again, and conditions will suit the Nigel Twiston-Davies horse. Extra places will useful if backing this horse at 20/1 (General).
The very best of luck!