Ir­ish rac­ing

Ir­ish ex­pert TONY KEENAN with the list he’ll be keep­ing a close eye on

Racing Ahead - - CONTENTS -

Tony Keenan gives his top ten to fol­low this win­ter

Last sea­son’s Na­tional Hunt horses to fol­low list said plenty about the at­tri­tional na­ture of the win­ter pas­time with three of the ten – Ar­tic­u­lum,Blow By Blow and Kil­lul­t­agh Vic – fail­ing to make the track at any time dur­ing 2016/17. There were some stars in there, no­tably Ap­ple’s Jade who re­tains her spot on the team and Death Duty, though the real pick of the bunch was prob­a­bly Swamp Fox who went on a win­ning spree this past sum­mer.

His suc­cesses came be­yond the re­mit of the ar­ti­cle how­ever with the ten horses reg­is­ter­ing 13 wins from 35 starts (a 37% strik­er­ate) dur­ing the Jumps sea­son proper through the end of Punchestown with a level-stakes loss of 3.4 points. Let’s hope to get that back in profit this time and more im­por­tantly that they all ac­tu­ally get to race.

ACAPELLA BOURGEOIS (7yo,W Mullins)

That a horse will im­prove for the switch to Wil­lie Mullins, re­gard­less of the pre­vi­ous trainer, is ba­si­cally a given so it seems rea­son­able to as­sume Acapella Bourgeois will step up on his of­fi­cial rat­ing of 149 achieved with San­dra Hughes last sea­son. Mullins has al­ready im­proved To­tal Re­call from the same source, win­ning the Munster Na­tional on his first start for the yard, and this sec­ond horse from the Slaneyville Syn­di­cate has even more scope as a seven-year-old with just seven chase starts.

In fact, Mullins will rarely have ac­quired a horse with more po­ten­tial and top-level chases seem a sen­si­ble aim with a horse that loves soft and heavy ground which he will get plenty of in Ire­land over the win­ter. He prob­a­bly isn’t a Chel­tenham Gold Cup horse given his ground pref­er­ences but the pair of Grade 1 chases at Leop­ard­stown look made for him and you never know with Mullins; he seems to be able to walk on wa­ter at times so per­haps he can get this one to han­dle good-to-soft!

AP­PLE’S JADE (5yo, G El­liott)

Ap­ple’s Jade is an ob­vi­ous one but a very good one, never out of the first two in 12 ca­reer starts and a five-time Grade 1 win­ner. She can con­tinue to win races for mares all win­ter but she is in­cluded here in the hope that she could go for a Stay­ers’ Hur­dle. Where a trainer like Wil­lie Mullins might be happy to keep her to her own sex, Gig­gin­stown tend to be more ag­gres­sive in their cam­paign­ing.

She achieved some­thing that isn’t common last sea­son in go­ing from ju­ve­nile hur­dles to win­ning open Grade 1s which wasn’t the great­est sur­prise as she had more scope than the typ­i­cal four-year-old hur­dler be­ing un­raced on the flat. Her well­be­ing was con­firmed in a win­ning re­turn in the Lis­mullen Hur­dle at Na­van and I think she can im­prove even fur­ther if her stamina is drawn out with the Thurs­day of the Fes­ti­val hope­fully the ul­ti­mate aim.

AR­TIC­U­LUM (7yo, T O’Brien)

While he may be near the top of this list, Ar­tic­u­lum was the last horse in­cluded as we sim­ply didn’t know any­thing of his well­be­ing un­til mid-Novem­ber but following a re­turn win at Cork he has to go back on the team along with Ap­ple’s Jade. All my com­ments about him last year still ap­ply; he is likely to be un­der­rated as he is from a small but ca­pa­ble yard and he

looked a re­ally good stay­ing prospect in win­ning a pair of bumpers over two miles three fur­longs.

With that in mind, I thought he would find the min­i­mum dis­tance too sharp on his first run in 18 months but on the con­trary he sim­ply blew his ri­vals away to win a maiden hur­dle by 35 lengths. The soft­heavy ground likely suited as it played to his stamina while the op­po­si­tion weren’t up to much but he de­fied a mar­ket drift and could not have been more im­pres­sive.His trainer said the Cork maiden had been his aim for nearly two months so things had gone to plan and if he re­mains sound graded novice hur­dles look the next portof-call.

DISKO (6yo, N Meade)

Last sea­son’s novice chasers were a par­tic­u­larly strong crop with the likes of Our Duke, Might Bite and Yorkhill rightly getting most of the plau­dits. But while the first-named flopped on de­but and is out in­jured,Disko is a straight­for­ward sort that re­turned to the track with a vic­tory and could be un­der­rated. It is easy to hold Noel Meade’s Fes­ti­val record against the horse but his run­ners there in 2017 all did well and Disko too put up a de­cent ef­fort when third in the JLT over a trip too sharp and un­der a ride that didn’t bring his stamina into play.

His win at Punchestown was ex­cel­lent as was his re­turn at Down Royal when the vibes about his fit­ness weren’t great; that win was the achieved in a good time­fig­ure and the third Ball D’Arc franked the form.While Disko al­most cer­tainly doesn’t have the raw abil­ity of a Might Bite or Yorkhill nor does he have their quirks and he would be my Gold Cup out­sider of choice at this point.

MINEL­LAFOR­DOL­LARS (5yo, G El­liott)

Like Voix De Tiep later on, Minel­lafor­dol­lars is another bumper horse with a good time-fig­ure though it may have es­caped the gen­eral no­tice as it came the Sun­day af­ter Chel­tenham at Na­van when most were re­view­ing the four days of the Fes­ti­val. The form is noth­ing to write home about but the vi­su­als and time were im­pres­sive and Gor­don El­liott said af­ter the race that he ‘was not a bumper horse.’

His Na­van rider Jamie Codd com­mented re­cently that he was a real stay­ing prospect and it was in­ter­est­ing to note that his ven­dor bought him back for £240,000 at the Goffs Jan­uary Sale, clearly of the be­lief that he was worth more than that. Given that JP McManus has ap­par­ently bought him pri­vately in the in­terim, they may well be cor­rect.

MOSSBACK (5yo, G El­liott)

Seem­ingly ev­ery sea­son, there’s a Gig­gin­stown horse or three that im­proves mas­sively for the switch form hur­dles to fences which isn’t the great­est sur­prise given they are,in most cases,bought with that idea in mind.Mossback looks like he could be one of this sea­son’s sur­prise im­provers and cer­tainly his win on chase de­but at Naas seemed to be a shock to ev­ery­one as he re­turned at Bet­fair SP of 166/1! But there was no fluke about his win­ning one of the strong­est maiden chases of the sea­son as he had Snow Fal­con, Bac­ardys and De Plot­ting Shed in be­hind, 150-rated hur­dlers all three.

Acapella Bourgeois

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