IRISH TOP 10
Paul turns his attention to Ireland for his horses to follow in the heartland of jumps racing
BALLYOISIN (EDNA BOLGER)
After just two starts under Rules, this former Point-to-Point winner is open to considerable improvement on his return and is likely to head straight over fences. The five-year-old Presenting gelding really impressed when winning a maiden hurdle at Navan last September, having earlier finished third (behind Limini) in a really warm maiden at Punchestown. Enda Bolger has been very patient with Ballyoisin to date and this will hopefully be rewarded in the coming seasons,as he looks a lovely long-term prospect for JP McManus.
CONEY ISLAND (EDWARD P HARTY)
There wasn’t much between this horse and Bellshill at Punchestown in April and both horses can be expected to take high rank among the Irish staying novice chasers this season. Given the fact that I’ve included four from the Willie Mullins yard, I thought I would side with Eddie Harty’s runner here, even though he was beaten a half-length by his aforementioned rival in the Grade 1 Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle last time.
Off the mark at the third time of asking over timber at Leopardstown over Christmas, the stoutly-bred Flemensfirth gelding bounced back from finishing last of five (Bellshill in third) in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle to land a novice handicap at Fairyhouse over Easter. Lightly raced, the five-year-old is completely unexposed as a stayer and, given that he only made his racecourse debut last November, there should be plenty more improvement to come.
DEATH DUTY (GORDON ELLIOTT)
A wide-margin Point-to-Point winner back in February of last year, Death Duty shaped well when third in a sales bumper at Fairyhouse shortly after (form worked out well), but appeared to step forward massively when running away with a Down Royal bumper on his reappearance.
After getting the better of Our Duke in a Listed event at Navan,the Shantou gelding went down by 1¾ lengths at the expense of subsequent Grade 1 winner (and now stable-mate) Blow By Blow, back at Fairyhouse. Death Duty moved like the best horse in that race for a long way, in my opinion, and, though his future lies over fences,he ought to make up into a very smart novice hurdler this winter.
He missed engagements in early October, presumably with Gordon Elliott wanting softer ground for him, but he could easily develop into a graded class performer throughout the winter months. The Navan Novice Hurdle is a likely target in the early part of the season, while he could be Albert Bartlett material come next March.
DIAMOND KING (GORDON ELLIOTT)
A late entry, following a very impressive chase debut at Galway in October,where he jumped really well throughout, Diamond King has always been a horse that has promised so much and he is now starting to deliver.
The winner of the Coral Cup in March, regular readers of my work might remember me waxing lyrical about this horse after winning a couple of bumpers in the north of England when trained by Donald McCain and he always appealed as the type to do well once sent chasing. Expected to take his chance in the Grade 1 Drinmore Novice Chase next time, he doesn’t handle deep ground so might be given a mid-season break before returning for the spring festivals. The JLT at Cheltenham or the Manifesto at Aintree are probable end of season targets.
IDENTITY THIEF (HENRY DE BROMHEAD)
A high-class 2m hurdler, Identity Thief now goes chasing and he rates an extremely exciting recruit to the larger obstacles. The Kayf Tara gelding won at Down Royal and Newcastle (the Grade 1 Fighting Fifth Hurdle) in the early part of last season and, given how the Henry De Bromhead horses are usually ready to roll (having been schooled extremely well), he is one to catch on his reappearance.
The six-year-old held entries in beginners’ chases in early-October, but his trainer is probably waiting for the ground to ease a shade before unleashing his stable star. The Arkle is the obvious end of season target, though the Maghull at Aintree could be another option, given the stable’s recent record in the race.
INVITATION ONLY (WILLIE MULLINS)
A seven-length winner of a four-year-old maiden point at Ballynoe last March, Invitation Only won both starts in bumpers last term,marking himself down as a very smart prospect for staying novice hurdles.
He stayed on strongly to score at Navan on debut,almost a year to the day after his success between the flags, and that form was franked early this season when fourth home Monbeg Notorious won by 15 lengths for Gordon Elliott and Gigginstown House Stud.
The Flemensfirth gelding followed up in determined fashion at the Punchestown Festival, in the same bumper that Yorkhill had won for the same connections 12 months earlier. Owners Andrea and Graham Wylie have Champion Bumper and Aintree runner-up Battleford to look forward to in the novice hurdle division this term, but this fiveyear-old looks every bit, if not more, exciting.
KILLULTAGH VIC (WILLIE MULLINS)
Sadly forced to miss last year’s Cheltenham Festival, having made it two from two over fences in remarkable circumstances in a Grade 2 novice chase at Leopardstown in mid-January. If you’ve not see the race (I’m sure you all have) take a look on the attheraces website.
The winner of the Martin Pipe at the 2015 festival, he went on to beat Thistlecrack over 3m at Punchestown and looked a thorough stayer in the making. But, over fences, he showed a lot more pace and there should be plenty of options for him to add to his tally as a chaser when he returns. Something like the John Durkan at Punchestown would appeal as a logical early season target, after which he could easily be considered for a crack at the King George. The seven-year-old is completely unexposed as a chaser and could develop into a contender for either the Ryanair or Gold Cup.
KOSHARI (WILLIE MULLINS)
A winner over hurdles on Boxing Day in France, Koshari made a really pleasing Irish debut when lowering the colours of stable-mate Bello Conti at the Punchestown Festival in late-April.
The Walk In The Park gelding travelled supremely well throughout and, though he had to be ridden right out after getting in tight at the last, it was a thoroughly
likeable performance. A chaser in waiting, he is likely to remain over hurdles this season and it will be fascinating to see how far he can go over timber. He is exciting, though be aware that he is no longer a novice, despite some of the big bookmakers thinking otherwise!
OUR DUKE (MRS JOHN HARRINGTON)
Jessie Harrington has a couple of nice prospects for novice chases, in the shape of Woodland Opera and Our Duke, and marginal preference is for the latter, who looks every inch a chaser in waiting.
A 21-length winner of a Punchestown bumper on his racecourse debut last November, he got within a half-length of Death Duty before making a winning debut over timber. Third in a Grade 2 on his final start at Fairyhouse in March, the Oscar gelding can be expected to step up over fences and should certainly develop into a graded class performer for a yard that certainly knows how to handle a high-class novice. Woodland Opera is certainly another for the notebooks over further.
YORKHILL (WILLIE MULLINS)
Hardly an unoriginal selection to end on, Yorkhill showed himself to be a top-class novice hurdler last season and is now expected to do likewise as a chaser.
The six-year-old showed a blistering turn of foot to shoot clear on the home bend,when beatingYanworth in the Neptune, and he followed up at Aintree, despite doing a lot wrong during the race (very keen and proving a very difficult ride for Paul Townend). Given these exploits, I was surprised he turned up at Punchestown, so I’m happy to put a line through that defeat.
Assuming he learns to relax with age, this chestnut has everything to go right to the top over fences and his chase debut is something to really look forward to.