The Grade 2 Boyne Hurdle at Navan shapes as an intriguing little contest. It may be hard to look beyond the first three in the betting, but that doesn’t make it less interesting, as three big guns, all multiple Graded winners, taking each other on. Effectively it’s a re-match of last months John Mulhern Galmoy Hurdle, which took place at Gowran Park in thick fog on bottomless ground over gruelling three miles.
It was Gigginstown’s Dedigout who prevailed that day. In a dramatic finish, he got right up on the line. The Willie Mullins trained Zaidpour and Briar Hill were decisively beaten in third and fourth. Judging by that performance, and the short price in the betting market today, Dedigout is clearly is expected to follow on to land another big prize today. It is his third run after a year long absence and it is obvious that he haven’t lost any of his old ability. He’s been a prolific chaser back in the day, but has really excelled over hurdles.
Question mark is, however, if he can bring his impressive form also to Navan today? Because were race in with significantly different conditions today, than it was the case three weeks ago at Gowran Park. it’s a sharp drop in trip from 3m down to 2.5m and instead of heavy ground it is actually quite decent today – considering what one would normally expect in Ireland at this time of the year. That says Dedigout has form over this trip and conditions, so he may well be happy enough with what he’s likely to find today. But if you want to find some question mark in this short price favouite – well, then this would it be!
Nine year old Zaidpour remains a very good horse. Back in November he won here at Navan a Grade 2 over 2m 4f. Not a particularly good one, but you can only beat what is in front of you. He was without a chance against Dedigout last month, though. Beaten five lengths, and dropped right out when it mattered. Expect him to be more competitive today. The drop in trip will suit and he he’s fine on this ground. Nonetheless, I feel that Zaidpour has always been a better horse with plenty of juice in the ground. Could that make the difference in the end?
In all honesty, I’m more sweet on the other Willie Mullins runner, Briar Hill. He is still only a seven year old and could easily have still some more improvement left. Yes, he has been disappointing in his two starts this season over 3 miles, but make no mistake, there was a reason why he was the favourite for the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival last season. I believe the drop in trip will work wonders for him today.
Those last poor showings exploited his stamina limitations and his best forms came all over shorter trips. Briar Hill was Grade 1 winning Novice hurdler last season here at Navan over 2 miles and 4f. I’m pretty confident with ground and trip to suit today, we’ll see a much improved Briar Hill. Obviously he still has a good deal to find on pure form with favourite Dedigout and it is not a given that he is actually able to find back to his best. But there is a fair chance and I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt today.
There are a couple more runners in this field, but realistically they shouldn’t be good enough to put any pressure on the three big guns. Back In Focus used to be a smart individual, but he has been off for a very long time, so he is probably best watched today.
Briar Hill @ 11/4 VC – 5pts win