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Grade 1 Triumph Hurdle, 2m 1f
Sir Erec has been touted as the banker of the week and he may well be. His flat form and Grade 1 Spring Juvenile Hurdle win entitle him to be at the top of the market. His preparation hasn’t been quite worry free, though. Probably it won’t make a difference, but it’s something to keep in mind.
As for his form: for all the visual sensation his most recent Leopardstown success created, as weak that form looks on the other hand.
Main rival Tiger Tap Tap had excuses (if you’re willing to accept them) and other than the Willie Mullins horse there was little of real quality in the field. It also was a steadily ran affair, suiting Sir Erec from the front best. A TS rating of 85 for a Grade 1 over 2 miles on good ground is appalling.
Soft ground holds no fears to Sir Erec judged by his strong flat form on this type of going. But on anything he’s achieved over hurdles so far he’s clearly one to avoid at a skinny price.
In saying that, it sounds hypocritical to put up Tiger Tap Tap as a selection for the race. Though, there are good reasons: on his stable- and hurdling debut in December at Leopardstown he nearly matched vastly more experienced Sir Erec stride for stride and only went down narrowly in the closing stages.
The Mullins camp expected a big run in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle but neither the steady pace suited, nor the fact he was boxed in turning for home, nor that he may have been undercooked, hence didn’t pick up at all after jumping the last.
Willie Mullins contested: “I might have been too easy on him between those races but he’s a smart sort”.
Mr Mullins has seen plenty of great horses over time. He’s got plenty of great horses filling the boxes in his stable right now. It would have been easy to let Tiger Tap Tap fall after such a disappointing run. But to the contrary, the trainer keeps faith, saying this lad is quite a smart one and he’s hopeful to get him back to the type of form produced on his debut.
I take trainer comments always with a pinch of salt. If they complete a picture I’ve already painted, it’s a positive, though. Clearly Tiger Tap Tap is talented; also related to a few smart horses. He’s already won on soft ground in France – so here’s hoping for a big run on Friday.
There is another one I quite like and want to throw at the favourite here:
….that’s not Coral Finale Juvenile Hurdle winner Quel Destin. Don’t get me wrong, I do like him but I simply like the close runner-up of the very same race, Adjali, the little bit more at much bigger odds.
Truth is there was little to chose between the two, even though Quel Destin kicked on from there winning another Grade 2 whereas Adjali was a massive disappointment subsequently.
Nonetheless, there is a dramatic price difference between the two, which I don’t feel reflects truly on the difference in class.
Interestingly, after the disappointing Cheltenham performance Adjali was seemingly out of the Triumph picture but came right back into it when delivering a fine piece of home work which lead Nicky Henderson to attest Adjali to be in “great form” and that “he’s very much come back to the front line.”
If Adjali can improve – which he has to – he can be able to outrun his price tag given ground and trip will be perfectly fine.
5pts win – Tiger Tap Tap @ 10/1 PP
5pts win – Adjali @ 16/1 Coral
2.10: Grade 3 County Hurdle, 2m 1f
Eclair De Beaufeu has made eye-catching progress from poor maiden hurdles right into hot handicap company. The novice showed guts when getting finally off the mark at Limerick in heavy ground. He followed up with an impressive success at Fairyhouse.
However the real eye-catcher is undoubtedly his latest run at Leopardstown, in a strong handicap – hist handicap debut – he travelled and jumped well and stayed on nicely in a messy finish for 4th place.
He comes here only 2lb higher. This experience should taught him plenty. He’s open for progress and should enjoy the stiff test on softish ground Cheltenham will provide on Friday.
A second selection here is improving Monsieur Lecoq. Since moving to the UK the French import won two on the bounce in deep ground and was only edged out late in the Imperial Cup last week by a well handicapped winner, while not getting the best of rides by an overwhelmed young apprentice.
Monsieur Lecoq can actually race off a lower mark here and has the excellent assistance of Lizzy Kelly in the saddle, who’ll claim valuable 3lb. Ground and trip will suit. Whether he can stay up the hill remains to be seen.
5pts win – Eclair De Beaufeu @ 12/1 BF
5pts win – Monsieur Lecoq @ 14/1 PP
2.50: Grade 1 Albert Bartlett, 3 miles
Proper soft ground, usually an attritional race, one where stamina and experience counts for a lot. Cap York doesn’t tick all the right “trend” boxes but plenty enough for me.
He was a promising younger horse when moving over to Ireland after showing signs of talent in France. Leg issues prevented him from running for roughly two years before coming back this season to land a Maiden hurdle on his comeback run as well as a decent Handicap when last seen.
That performance is hard to gauge because the main challenger fell at the final hurdle, but up until that point Cap York rallied strongly, to suggest he may have held on anyways.
Before that the seven-year-old ran with plenty of credit in a Grade 2 Novice Hurdle at Limerick, finishing 4th behind Derrinross. He was unlucky that day – not only did they crawl, which doesn’t suit this lad at all, but he was also several times heavily impeded over the last two furlongs.
A race with good pace, with emphasis on stamina and soft ground will be ideal for York Cap. He looks like a stayer through and through, which his trainer Noel Meade confirms:
“He just keeps galloping and I’d say the softer the ground and the longer the trip the more he would like it… he stays and stays. ”
10pts win – Cap York @ 26/1 MB
4.10: Foxhunter Open Hunters’ Chase, 3m 2f
If you’re one of the lucky ones who got early on to Hazel Hill – well done! I’m late too the party but not too late. The 11-year-old isn’t a sexy price any more but I imagine he”ll go off around 7/2 fav on the day.
This lad looks a serious Foxhunter contender – still relatively low mileage for his age, a proper ‘hunter’, he came into the picture with a wide margin success at Warwick in January. He ran to an RPR of 151 and TS rating of 119 that day – this is as good a piece of form you’ll find this year in this sphere.
Hazel Hill is 14 out of his last 15 rides, unbeaten under rules, will love the ground and trip and is without a doubt the one to beat.
10pts win – Hazel Hill @ 13/2 WH
Grade 3 Grand Annual Chase, 2m½f
Last year’s winner Le Prezien comes here only a single pound higher than winning twelve months ago. That was a serious performance in similar conditions as to expect on Friday, when he had to navigate around a faller three out, yet came home super strongly to win with a bit in hand.
If Le Prezien is a similar sort of form he’ll take a hell of beating, granted he gets a clear enough run. He’s had a quiet enough season, with one fine hurdle run and two disappointing performances over fences. He didn’t set the world alight last year before Cheltenham either, so this isn’t a worry.
The other one at an even bigger Price I quite like is Marracudja. He’s down to a pretty fair mark having won the Scottish Champion Hurdle off a pound higher last year.
He’s a tricky enough ride, but looked quite good in his last two starts toward the end of 2018. Since then Marracudja had a wind OP and comes here fresh. He’s won off breaks before, and if his wind is fine now then he should go close in these conditions.
5pts win – Marracudja @ 20/1 BF
5pts win – Le Prezien @ 11/1 PP
Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle, 2m4½f
Acapella Bourgeois returns after a one year plus lay-off. You have to trust Willie Mullins to bring him over in good shape. Now a 9-year-old, it remains to be seen how much ability he retains, but judged on past form he’s got a brilliant chance here.
He was in the Ryanair, Gold Cup and Grand National picture still at the start of the year. So, I hope now reverting to hurdling, where he can race off 9lb lower than his chase mark, a big run is on the cards.
One shouldn’t forget Acapella Bourgeois was a Grade 2 winning novice hurdler and two years ago a leading RSA contender. Also when last seen, Acapella Bourgeois was punted off the boards in a hot 2 mile handicap (where he was subsequently pulled up).
Back up in trip, with soft ground, one would hope Acapella Bourgeois will find ideal conditions to show – granted fitness is on his side. At a massive price it’s worth the risk.
10pts win – Acapella Bourgeois @ 20/1 MB