Preview – Barry Hills Further Flight Stakes

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This intriguing staying contest sees last years St. Leger sixth Forever Now reappearing. The Galileo son is still generally lightly raced and has been progressive throughout his three year old campaign. He won a Listed contest over 1m 6f at Goodwood, following on from a fine third in the Group 3 Bahrain Trophy. There is every chance that he has still a bit more to offer.

The only question mark is the ground. He has some sort of form with a bit of give in the ground, but he showed his best on a better surface. Todays conditions at Nottingham are soft, though the good weather may help. One has to consider though that Forever Now is a very short price. On that basis I think it’s possible to oppose him here on his seasonal reappearance.

The filly Island Remede has the benefit of a recent run and finished a very creditable runner-up to Windshear in a Conditions Stakes over 12f on her seasonal reappearance. She clearly loves the mud and that should ensure that she’s in with a good chance to run well today.

The Ralf Beckett trained Cinnilla progressed nicely through the ranks last season, though she was found out in better class on heavy ground in France at the end of the year. Lightly raced Deuce Again has done well on the All-Weather recently, but this is a completely different test and it remains to be seen if she’s suited by it.

Clearly the most interesting runner is Godolphin’s Blue Rambler. Unbeaten in France as a three year old, where he won a Listed race over 12f in softish conditions, he moved yards subsequently but ran only once for Charlie Appleby last season, when he finished a fair third in a hot Handicap. He steps up in trip now but that shouldn’t be a problem on pedigree, and he’ll love the ground today.

First time headgear is interesting and suggests he’s not in it for a public gallop. The yard is going strongly too. While there are question marks about fitness after a long lay-off, he may have still a good deal of improvement left in him. With conditions sure to suit, I expect a big run and he looks overpriced in this field.

3.40 Nottingham: Barry Hills Further Flight Stakes (Listed)
Blue Rambler @ 13/2 Stanjames – 5pts win

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National Delight!

Katie Walsh became on Monday afternoon the third female jockey to win the Irish Grand National! It was however the first time that female jockey and female trainer were responsible for the big race winner, as Sandra Hughes trains the horse. Her mount, the seven year old Thunder And Roses, travelled strongly throughout and found plenty when it mattered most. He was never too far off the pace but made gradually progress from five out, to be in with a shout entering the home straight. A strong and determined ride by Katie Walsh sealed the deal eventually.

It’s noteworthy that only nine – yes 9 – horses actually finished the race! There was carnage at an early fence, taking out a couple right away, while others had been pulled up throughout the two circuits. The Gigginstown horses however seemed to excel and finished first, second and fourth.

It’s been a wonderful day on Easter Monday, with splendid sunshine and of course great racing. I had the luck to be at Fairyhouse myself to cheer Katie and Thunder And Roses on – it’s been certainly a sweet afternoon as I made this pair my selection for the National (see Preview on this site). And it got even better when Great Minds got up in Cork to win the Listed sprint contest, where he was my 8/1 selection (see preview on this site)!

Preview – Irish Grand National

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Naturally this is a race where you could pick five horses and still may not pick the right one to win. It is that competitive! The conditions at Fairyhouse will ensure that this is a real test of stamina today, not only because of the long 3m 5f trip, but also very much because of the soft ground.

That says spring is in the air nonetheless, and we should have a cracking race in prospect under the pleasant April sun. I could say allot about each and every runner, but will concentrate on the horses that intrigued me most – I had 11 runners short-listed, and cut it down to three horses to follow today.

Thunder And Roses; Katie Walsh – 25/1 

The seven year old gelding had a fair first season over fences. A mud loving hurdler as high as 135 rated, he was always going to be a better chaser potentially and currently rated 136, he could still have a bit improvement left. He was disappointing at Cheltenham where he fell, was a modest third in Grade 2 company before, but won a 3 mile contest at Fairyhouse in impressive style back in January. Now on his Handicap debut, he looks not out off it with a fair opening mark, and this test today and could be what he really wants.

Dogora; Paul Townend – 33/1 

He is only a six year old and is one I’m sure hasn’t shown us all he has got yet. His performance in the Cross-Country Chase at Cheltenham was really good I felt, even though he got a bit tired up the hill. But he was one of the horses affected by the fallers at the second last but he kept going and was by no means disgraced in 4th. It looks like this kind of test is what he wants, so the big field and trip should suit him. He has done well on soft ground in the past and of a mark off 135 he could be dangerous.

Tammys Hill; BT O’Connell – 25/1 

This hunters chaser had a rather light campaign this season and clearly has been kept fresh for the National. He can race off a very fair mark and has class, as he won the Foxhunter Chase two years ago at the Festival. I believe he has the trip in him and he goes well in these kind of ground conditions. He looks in with a big chance.

All three selections 2.5pts Each/Way

Preview – Cork Stakes

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Despite some lovely sunshine over the Easter weekend, the ground at Cork remains soft. Interestingly, most runners in the 6 furlongs Cork Stakes are actually advantaged by these conditions. That should ensure that we have quite an intriguing contest on our hands.

The mare Aetna deserves utmost respect and is awell  deserved favourite. She won a Listed contest on bottomless ground at Doncaster when seen the last time five month ago. She has done well as a fresh horse in the past and sets a very fair standard here for all the right reasons. That says she is short enough in the betting, though,  and there’re some interesting alternatives.

Gathering Power has won only twice in seventeen starts throughout her career so far, but she loves the mud and ran with credit in some hot races last season. She can go close. Last years Cork Stakes winner An Saighdiur isn’t getting any younger and hasn’t shown too much since this last win, but he gets his conditions and has a recent run to his name, so must clearly enter calculations.

Jim Bolger’s lightly raced Flight Risk looks up against it dropping down to six furlongs, while Big Time was once a smart juvenile but has to overcome a long absence and was disappointing in his two starts last season. Reverted to sprinting may help, though. Veteran Bold Thady Quill won this very same race two years ago but hasn’t been in any sort of form in most of his last starts. He loves the mud but this is a strong renewal and he may find it beyond him at this stage of his career.

Without a shadow of a doubt the most intriguing runner is the lightly raced Great Minds. Already a five year old, he has seen very little racing, but was highly progressive in his two starts last year. He won two big Curragh Handicaps over six furlongs and showed a preference for cut in the ground. On his seasonal reappearance last week in a hot sprint Handicap, he didn’t get the clearest of runs but finished with promise. Up in class again, he could still improve and most importantly improve past his rivals in this race. With conditions sure to suit, he should go well and looks a very big price.

3.30 Cork: Cork Stakes (listed)
Great Minds @ 8/1 Paddy Power – 5pts win

Preview – Musselburgh Gold Cup

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An intriguing contest which should turn into a real stamina test. Progressive stayer Handiwork looks to have a big shout with Joe Fanning on board. His ability to handle soft ground and to stay two miles are a key combination today. I feel further improvement is already very much reflected in the short odds, though. Top weight Lady Kashaan goes well with cut in the ground, but the trip stretches her stamina and with a very big weight to overcome, she may struggle here. Usually in attacking mode, Be Perfect must have a serious chance if he handles the ground. But despite drying ground, it remains very much on the slow side, and that is a concern.

Streets Of Newyork was in good nick over hurdles this year already and now back on the flat off a fair mark, he should have a good chance, though his best performances on the flat came over shorter trips. The lightly races Royal Signaller could easily have still more to offer. The trip and ground are slight worries. If he handles both, he’ll  be a big runner. Same applies to Braes Of Lochalsh. First start in handicaps & feather weight are an interesting combination, but he’s completely unproven on ground and trip and could be anything.

From a betting perspective I feel Richard Guest’s runner Precision Strike is a very big price. It remains to be seen if the track plays to his strengths, but the five year old clearly handles ground and trip. He was a really progressive stayer last season, culminating back in October in an excellent success in a 2m Handicap at Haydock. He probably needed his recent outing at Wolverhampton and while he was a long way beaten, one would expect him to be much more competitive today. If he can make enough progress entering the home straight to be not too far of the pace, he will have a big shout in this I feel.

3.25 Musselburgh: Musselburgh Gold Cup
Precision Strike @ 22/1 Bet365 – 5pts win

Mr Bossy Boots can make feather weight count

An intriguing race that brings proven top class handicappers with progressive & lightly raced individuals together. At the top of the ratings is classy Outback Traveller who has a huge weight to defy. On pure class he is the one they all have to beat – but I feel the improving Mr Bossy Boots is probably the one they all have to fear most.

He has the benefit of a feather weight because he is the lowest rated horse in the race, but this lightly raced colt looks to have much more on the plate than the ratings suggest. He was very impressive a very impressive winner at Lingfield in January, when he looked still very green and raw, was pulling hard but surged clear with ease in the closing stages. Obviously he has to step up markedly in class today, but the handicapper’s 5lb hike in the mark for this most recent triumph has been lenient in my mind. That says Mr Bossy Boots could be a good deal ahead of this mark and must have a major chance today.

Also improving and an impressive winner was Speculative Bid. He looked in a completely different class than his rivals in a class 4 Handicap here at Kempton. He has been hit with a big hike in the mark, but looks well up to it. Though very much up in class, he may not get a smooth a ride through this time. Same may apply for Ninjago who won well first time blinkered over CD recently, but had it all going for himself.

2.15 Kempton: Class 2 Handicap, 7 furlongs:
Mr Bossy Boots @ 4/1 Coral – 5pts win

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