Ir­ish rac­ing

Tony Keenan with the 2018-19 edi­tion of his long-run­ning list

Racing Ahead - - CONTENTS -

Tony Keenan with his horses to watch for

The 2017/18 list of jumps to fol­low proved an ok, not great, not ter­ri­ble group; six of the ten horses won a race with an over­all re­turn of nine wins from 34 starts, a strik­er­ate of 26% and to level-stakes at Bet­fair SP they re­turned a loss of 8.28 points up to the end of Punchestown. Ap­ple’s Jade was an early star with a pair of Grade 1 wins pre-Christ­mas but didn’t seem the same mare in the spring though Rathvin­den did at least get us on the board at Chel­tenham in the Na­tional Hunt Chase.

Next Des­ti­na­tion was about the pick and would be the one to take into the com­ing sea­son away from Chel­tenham where he has un­der­per­formed twice with Acapella Bour­geois by far the most dis­ap­point­ing, es­pe­cially in light of what To­tal Re­call achieved off a sim­i­lar pro­file. This sea­son’s ten is an en­tirely new group how­ever and comes a month ear­lier than the one from last sea­son; none of these have run this sea­son which brings risk but also ex­cite­ment. As ever, the aim will be to turn a profit to Bet­fair SP or at very least find a few big race win­ners. Al Boum (6yo, Wil­lie Mullins) The early signs sug­gest last sea­son’s novice chasers are a strong crop, two from the group in Snow Fal­con and Satur­nas dom­i­nat­ing the Kerry Na­tional fin­ish re­cently, the lat­ter in par­tic­u­lar hardly ap­pear­ing well-treated at the time. Al Boum Photo was bet­ter than both in 2017/18 and while per­haps lack­ing the Gold Cup up­side of Pre­sent­ing Percy looks ca­pa­ble of win­ning an open Grade 1.

Part of it is his age as he is still only six but more than that there is the hope that his jump­ing will fi­nally come to­gether; to date it has been er­ratic to put it kindly and last sea­son he fell on two of his six starts while mak­ing er­rors in the other four. The engine is im­mense and in the Punchestown race where Paul Tow­nend ran him out in April he was in the process of putting in his most com­plete jump­ing per­for­mance yet, al­beit not a per­fect one.

There is ev­ery chance Al Boum Photo falls dur­ing the com­ing months but against that it could all click into place at least once to win at the top level and with his abil­ity to get from A to B al­ways a worry, he could well do so at a price. Balko Des Flos (7yo, H De Brom­head) Balko Des Flos was the low­est pro­file top-rated Ir­ish chaser in many a sea­son but his of­fi­cial rat­ing of 169 was on a par with Siz­ing John and a pound ahead of Bell­shill and Un De Sceaux. There are likely a few rea­sons for this; it was a down year for Ir­ish chasers in the best open races, his win in the Ryanair came against only five ri­vals, he dis­ap­pointed sub­se­quently at Ain­tree and didn’t make Punchestown while there may even be some Gig­gin­stown fa­tigue mixed in there.

Still, his Ryanair win was vis­ually im­pres­sive and ex­cel­lent on the clock while it came on ground that was thought to be too slow for him; there could be more to come on bet­ter ground. Fur­ther­more, Balko Des Flos is only seven and he has scope go­ing three miles; he didn’t seem to stay that trip as a younger horse but his most re­cent ef­fort over it when se­cond to Road To Re­spect in the Leop­ard­stown Christ­mas Chase sug­gested other­wise.

Sim­ple logic would dic­tate that he goes back to the Ryanair again in 2019 but Michael O’Leary val­ues the Gold Cup above all other races and there could be some juice in the gen­eral 25/1 avail­able about him for that race. He clearly han­dles the track well and it would be no sur­prise to see him chart a sim­i­lar path as last sea­son, run­ning at Christ­mas be­fore a break as he seems to go well fresh. Dra­conien (5yo, Wil­lie Mullins) It is sen­si­ble to won­der how some of the horses that ran at all the spring fes­ti­vals will have taken a busy back­end to their 2017/18 cam­paigns; not only were those races run on un­usu­ally soft ground but there was an ex­tra meet­ing thrown in with the Dublin Rac­ing Fes­ti­val. The likes of Getabird, Duc De Ge­nievres and Scar­peta all had plenty of rac­ing around that time and not all of them held their form.

That wasn’t the case with Dra­conien who was ef­fec­tively hav­ing his first run since early-Jan­uary at Fairy­house hav­ing un­seated a week ear­lier at Na­van and it was an eye-catch­ing ef­fort off a break as found him­self too far out of his ground be­fore need­ing to be switched, shap­ing like the out­ing would bring him on.

It did just that at Punchestown where he com­pre­hen­sively re­versed form with Getabird in a good over­all time, trav­el­ling like a real two-miler off

a strong gal­lop, and strongly sug­gest­ing he was the Mullins novice hur­dler to take from the sea­son. Where he goes next is un­clear –it prob­a­bly hasn’t been de­cided yet – but he looks po­ten­tially top-class whether this sea­son is over fences or hur­dles.

Dun­ve­gan (5yo, Pat Fahy)

Dun­ve­gan raced against some of the bet­ter bumper horses around in the early part of last sea­son, se­cond to three-time win­ner Rapid Es­cape on de­but be­fore fill­ing the same spot be­hind one-time Cham­pion Bumper favourite Hol­low­graphic. He was bet­ter than the re­sult on both oc­ca­sions, meet­ing some trou­ble first time be­fore rac­ing too keenly on this se­cond run. The form of those runs is strong not only based on the win­ners but also on the fact that now 135-rated hur­dler Not Many Left filled the frame in both con­tests.

He fol­lowed that up with a com­fort­able win at Fairy­house and while he dis­ap­pointed upped in class at the Dublin Rac­ing Fes­ti­val he was soon back on track with a se­cond to sub­se­quent Grade 2 win­ner Pal­lasator on hur­dling de­but. That form would have made him very dif­fi­cult to beat in a maiden hur­dle but con­nec­tions made the sen­si­ble choice to re­vert to bumpers and pre­serve his novice sta­tus for 2018/19.

His ex­pe­ri­ence edge could prove sig­nif­i­cant in the early part of the sea­son against horses hav­ing their first run over hur­dles but in any case he pos­sesses a good level of abil­ity, one of only five horses last sea­son not trained by Mullins or El­liott to win more than one bumper, an achieve­ment he reached with a win at the Punchestown Fes­ti­val where the tal­ented Getar­ea­son was among those in be­hind.

Flaw­less Es­cape (5yo, Gor­don El­liott)

Flaw­less Es­cape was un­usual for an El­liott horse last sea­son in that he didn’t race af­ter Chel­tenham; he had been a bit dis­ap­point­ing as favourite when fin­ish­ing twelfth in the Martin Pipe but it was hardly a ter­ri­ble run and he looked a horse that could com­pete in a big hand­i­cap hur­dle and help in the trainer’s ti­tle bid.

But El­liott in­stead de­cided to rough him off with a view to send­ing him over fences, say­ing in a re­cent sta­ble tour that he had enough done as a five-year-old and I al­ways look on it as a good thing when prospec­tive chasers are sent that way sooner rather than later, the ex­tra sea­son over hur­dles of­ten prov­ing detri­men­tal long-term. His form over hur­dles is good, no­tably a third to To­tal Re­call at Leop­ard­stown dur­ing the Dublin Rac­ing Fes­ti­val when he had sub­se­quent big hand­i­cap win­ners Delta Work and A Great View in be­hind. It looks a pos­i­tive that his trainer was as pro­tec­tive of him as he is only a 133rated hur­dler at this stage and con­nec­tions seem to be­lieve he can rate much higher than that over fences.

Minella Indo (5yo, Henry De Brom­head)

Henry De Brom­head is not a trainer of bumper horses; in the last three

full Ir­ish jumps sea­sons, he has had just three win­ners from 83 bumper run­ners. That didn’t pre­vent the likes of Monalee, Su­pa­sun­dae, Or­di­nary World and At­tri­bu­tion, all of whom failed to win in bumpers, go­ing on to much bet­ter things over ob­sta­cles how­ever.

Minella Indo too failed to win a bumper but in fair­ness he only had one go and it was an ex­cel­lent ef­fort; that came on the fi­nal race of the sea­son at Punchestown in a con­test for un­raced horses. He shaped well in com­ing third, too free but trav­el­ling best of all, and was only run out of it in the fi­nal fur­long.

Just one horse from the first seven have run since with most of them longer term projects but the early sign is good with that horse be­ing City Is­land who won a com­pet­i­tive maiden hur­dle at Gal­way next time.

Moy­henna (6yo, De­nis Ho­gan)

De­nis Ho­gan was one of the big over­achiev­ers of the past jumps sea­son, fin­ish­ing eighth in the train­ers’ ta­ble, with You­cant­call­herthat his most pro­lific horse with five wins in novice chases. Four of those came against mares and there is now an ex­ten­sive pro­gramme for such horses and Ho­gan looks to have an­other ideal sort for them in Moy­henna.

There was an el­e­ment of mark­ing time with her over hur­dles, her trainer view­ing her as a chaser and bred as such be­ing out of Moskova who was rated 138 at her peak over fences, but she reached a rea­son­able level over the smaller ob­sta­cles. She man­aged to get graded placed at Lim­er­ick in March and fol­lowed that up with fourth in a com­pet­i­tive novice hand­i­cap hur­dle at Fairy­house.

That was her first run over three miles, a trip she is bred for, and while it may ap­pear that she didn’t get home, she made her move very early and may have paid the price. In any case, cut­ting back in dis­tance won’t be an is­sue and it could be ideal that most of those mares novice chases are around in­ter­me­di­ate trips.

Pat’s Pick (4yo, Noel Meade)

Pat’s Pick cer­tainly wasn’t ex­pected to win on de­but in the valu­able sales bumper at Fairy­house with Noel Meade re­mark­ing af­ter­wards that ‘I didn’t think he’d win [as] we never re­ally dipped him that much.’ He didn’t look like com­ing home in front for much of the race ei­ther hav­ing raced keenly through­out and been wider than most but de­spite both those things not be­ing ideal he found plenty in the fin­ish to win by half a length.

That form has worked out with the se­cond fill­ing the same po­si­tion at Grade 3 level af­ter­wards and the third win­ning next time but more than any­thing the trainer com­ments left the im­pres­sion that Pat’s Pick should im­prove plenty for the run. A sea­son novice hur­dling is planned and it would be no sur­prise to see him start off at Down Royal given he is owned by the Sloans who are both lo­cals and spon­sors at the track.

Tor­nado Flyer (5yo, W Mullins)

Wil­lie Mullins went full ‘Beast Mode’ on the most re­cent Cham­pion Bumper, sad­dling five of the first seven, in­clud­ing the one-two-three. The most in­ter­est­ing of his with a view to this sea­son could be Tor­nado Flyer as he con­ceded ex­pe­ri­ence to all of the field at Chel­tenham on what was just the se­cond race of his ca­reer (hadn’t run in points) but be­lied that to fin­ish third beaten less than four lengths.

Bet­ter was to come at Punchestown Cham­pion Bumper where de­spite be­ing a drifter in the bet­ting he re­versed Chel­tenham form with Rel­e­gate and Care­fully Selected and again beat the well-backed Black­bow. That one trav­elled best while it was quite hard work for Tor­nado Flyer but he showed a re­ally will­ing at­ti­tude, hardly the great­est sur­prise as he is from the fam­ily of Hur­ri­cane Fly.

That’s a mainly flat pedi­gree on the dam side but he looks like one that will be bet­ter over a trip of at least 20 fur­longs al­ready though it would be no sur­prise if his trainer started him off over shorter early in the sea­son and grad­u­ally move up in trip. Given the high level of bumper form he achieved in just three runs, the Bal­ly­more is hardly a fan­ci­ful aim.

Us And Them (5yo, Joseph O’Brien)

At­ti­tude is one of those hard to mea­sure qual­i­ties in a race­horse but it comes into play over jumps ev­ery sea­son; some horses rel­ish the bat­tle while oth­ers curl up un­der pres­sure. The early signs are that Us And Them will fall into the for­mer group, his tough­ness par­tic­u­larly ev­i­dent when he beat Train­wreck at Punchestown last De­cem­ber, get­ting only 1lb from that now 138-rated ri­val on the day de­spite him be­ing a year younger. He backed that good ef­fort up with a se­cond at Lim­er­ick over Christ­mas where he con­ceded weight to the win­ner and while dis­ap­point­ing in the Supreme that ef­fort came off a long break and he didn’t run af­ter­wards. His trainer re­ports him in full work with a run in a novice chase in­tended in the next month or so and he ap­peals as just the sort to take to that code, his front-run­ning style of­ten trans­lat­ing well to fences at least over the shorter trips he is likely to race at.

Wil­lie Mullins

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