Thursday, we start at Gowran Park where it was Theystes Chase day this card is always an informative one. The first race went to the Willie Mullins trained Footpad at odds of 1/10, the trainer stated he thought Footpad was a Triumph hurdle horse we shall see . Footpad is due to race in the Grade 1 at Leopardstown on February 6th that will tell the tale. Au Quart De Tour got off the mark in the maiden hurdle winning by 8 lengths , he had been an unlucky loser at Fairyhouse when falling at the last with the race at his mercy. I think Au quart De Tour is pretty smart , I also feel he will stay further giving him lots of options for the future. The Galmoy Grade 2 hurdle went to Alpha Des Obeaux who deserved his turn having run a number of good races. Alpha Des Obeaux was a very convincing 11 lengths winner with, At Fishers Cross coming second who still looks a light of other days. Martello Tower was in the process of running a very good race until an X rated mistake at the fourth last cost him any chance, Briar Hill ran a very odd race he got way out of his ground then dropped out again after moving up in a stylish manner. The aftermath Alpha Des Obeaux has booked his ticket to The World Hurdle, Martello Tower is a horse I like but I would like to see him run again before Cheltenham. The last horse to mention is poor Briar Hill he has never looked the same horse since that dreadful fall at Cheltenham, Willie Mullins did say afterwards that he thought he could get Briar Hill to win a graded race, who am I to question the maestro of Closutton?
The Theystes itself was ultra competitive Mala Beach and Ballycasey were the two horses punters latched on to. The race went to My Murphy in a fine staying performance, My Murphy has threatened to win one of these big handicaps for some time now. The finish was a rousing one with My Murphy holding of the determined challenge of Mala Beach, it capped a great week for Robbie Power who had won the Coral hurdle at Leopardstown the previous Sunday. The placed horses, Uncello Conti was taken extremely wide the whole way by Jacques Ricou whom's Irish odyssey is not endearing him to Irish punters that is for sure, The Job is Right ran a cracker to be placed. The ones behind , Rule The World ran his normal solid race, Buckers Bridge ran really well the Kim Muir could be a target, Ballycasey looks to not stay 3 miles he traveled superbly he might not be out of the Ryanair . The beginners went to Tell Us More it was nice to see him winning, Tell Us More has burst blood vessels in the past hopefully it is upwards for this lad he is a nice horse. The bumper went to New to This Town who battled back very bravely to beat the keen racing Avenir D'une Vie, time may prove that this was a very good bumper.
In the UK, Ludlow was abandoned. The main action was at Wincanton Quite By Chance followed up his win at Christmas in the handicap beating Wuff . Golden Chieftain won the 3 miles 2 furlongs handicap to continue his good season. The wins of Golden Chieftain and Quite By Chance completed a double for the Tizzard team who continue to be in good form
Friday, In the Uk Market Rasen had a competitive card. Aso won the Graduation chase for Venetia Williams this horse could be of interest in a handicap at the Cheltenham Festival. Herons Heir won the handicap hurdle for Dan Skelton this horse is on the upgrade. Tanarpino won the conditional jockeys handicap hurdle defying the penalty he was under pressure a long way out. I thought for a good while it looked like our members selection Milly Baloo advised 1pt each way 6/1 would win but Tanarpino stayed on really strongly and Milly Baloo had to take second spot. The meeting at Chepstow was abandoned.
At Dundalk there was a mother and father of a gamble on Ciankyle, who was backed from (20-1 to 9-2) the gamble was denied by Skerray Rules for Michael Halford who won by 3 quarters of a length. The other horse to take out of the night was Cristy's call who ran very well and will be winning soon.
Saturday, we start at Ascot who had a great card. The juvenile race was won by Gibralfaro who impressed again winning the race well, he definitely will be among the UK top juveniles. The mares hurdle went to the highly touted Vroum Vroum Mag who looked a really good horse , there is now talk of the world hurdle. I think it is very hard to know how good this horse is only time will tell. The race was a great result for our members ,who were advised a 1pt each way on Jennies Jewel at 50/1 at a quarter of the odds Jennies Jewel ran a blinder. The £5o,000 handicap hurdle was won by Rock The Kasbah he was advised to our members 1pt each way at 7/1. Rock The Kasbah looks a real Coral Cup type of horse, Baron Alco ran very well he is a horse to keep an eye on. The Clarence House Chase was a recovery mission for Un De Sceaux who was looking to get back on winning ways. Un De Sceaux was really good here, he looks like the Queen Mother Chase is at his mercy bar a fall. The horse I took out of the race was Traffic Fluide who ran a blinder first time out, Traffic Fluide is of serious interest each way in the Queen Mother now at around 14/1 , Traffic Fluide is also 7/1 without Un De Sceaux this is a bet I would like I must admit.
Haydock had an excellent card also. The opening handicap hurdle went to Baywing who won really well, this horse is in serious form. It was not a bad race for our members were on Shades Of Midnight advised 1pt each way at 7/1 who placed . The novice chase went to Bristol De Mai who was really impressive, Bristol De Mai was also a 3pt win selection for our members at 9/4. The Supreme novice trial went to Its'afreebee who got the better of Le Prezien for trainer Dan Skelton by 3 quarters of length. The Champion hurdle trial went to The New One who surely can not possibly win the champion hurdle, the English challenge looks very weak this race did nothing to strengthen it in my view. The Peter Marsh Chase went to Cloudy Too who bolted up by 15 lengths from Virak (who placed for our members advised 1pt each 5/1). The race was a massive boost for an old friend of ours Wakanda who has beaten both these horses convincingly. At Taunton ,Mr Mix picked up the maiden hurdle for Paul Nicholls he might turn into a nice horse.
Navan had a good card. Gurteen won the maiden hurdle he looks a really good horse who could win a winners of one soon. The rated hurdle was won by Sizing Tennessee from Bright New Dawn , I thought Cliffside Park ran really well this horse has a race in him .I think I will make him a Notebook horse for February. The beginners chase looked like it was going to Fascino Rustico who after making all the running fell at the last handing victory to Artic Skipper. There were wins for Woodford County at 1/5 and White Arm at 13/8 to wrap up the card
Sunday, it was all eyes on Leopardstown. I was delighted to be at Leopardstown again for one of the big days.I had thought it was a tricky card outside of the two feature races , however it ended up with 5 winning favorites and two incredible individual performances from Douvan and Faugheen. The opener went to Don't Touch it who bolted up beating Beau Mome by 13 lengths. Jessica Harrington expressed the view after the race this horse "could be very good" it was hard to argue with that opinion. A Toi Phil won the grade 2 novice hurdle it was the fifth year in a row Willie Mullins won this contest. Acapella Bourgeois ran a decent race in second he now has a nice handicap mark take note!! Woodland opera was well beaten again ,along with Chain Gang they never really looked like featuring in the finish. I was really impressed with A Toi Phil , he will now get on to my neptune shortlist.
The Irish Arkle featured Douvan , I am already on the record in this blog as saying Douvan could be the horse of a generation. I really believe it . I remember talking to one of racing confidants last summer about Douvan, I said to him "I cant believe Douvan does not go for the Champion Hurdle he would piss it" he said " He must be some chaser". I had never seen a hurdler get from one side of a hurdle to the other quicker in my time watching racing including Istabraq and Hurricane Fly.I now must admit that it was a brilliant move, on Sunday Douvan had pundits questioning his jumping those questions are now blown to bits. Douvan was electric almost hurdling his fences, the turn of foot showed after the last was simply breathtaking with very little effort. I spoke to my confidant on Monday about Douvan he has been a racecourse bookmaker at Cheltenham since the 1960s, he saw Arkle in the flesh. He said to me " Derek I never thought I would see a horse like Arkle again but I have now and it is Douvan" I was gobsmacked for a man that has seen so many good horses to say that to me says it all. I think it will take a fall to stop Douvan , I have been lucky to see great Arkle winners in Moscow Flyer, Azertyuiop and Sprinter Sacre, however I think Douvan is different gear, to my eyes Douvan is the complete racehorse . I would go as far as to say Douvan would be the fav for the Queen Mother above Un De Sceaux if Douvan ran in the race as it stands today.
The feature race was the Irish Champion Hurdle which saw a clash of Faugheen, Artic Fire and Nichols Canyon. I still can not figure why Willie Mullins ran the three horses. The race itself was run at a decent tempo with Faugheen and Nichols Canyon taking each other on toe to toe both jumped really well down the back straight. I thought as they turned to face the second last we were going to be treated to a great race, however Faugheen settled it in a matter of strides. Nichols Canyon made a slight mistake at the second last, landing in a bit of heap Faugheen winged the second last hurdle powering into a six length lead. As they turned for home Faugheen went further and further clear pouring it on. Faugheen got the last all wrong, but it mattered not a jot Faugheen won by 15 Lengths, I was actually shocked by the ease of Faugheen's win.This was a superb display by Faugheen. I am afraid for those with Ante post positions on Nichols Canyon like myself it was a chastening day with our horse well and truly stuffed. The only thing Nichols Canyons backers can hope is he had a very hard race at Christmas which left a mark,apart from Faugheen's connections the happiest man was probably Henry de Bromhead who left Identity Thief at home in his box dodging a big bullet here. I must admit I find it almost impossible to see Nichols Canyon turn this form around with Faugheen. I saw lots of reports saying Artic Fire ran well. I hope those people were swiftly recaptured and returned to the asylum they escaped from. Artic Fire was never a factor in this race anyone who thinks he was is deluded.
The rest of the Leopardstown card saw a tenacious win for The Mooch who battled back to beat Just Get Cracking . The Mooch was a win for trainer Paul Nolan who is quietly bouncing back. The other handicap chase on the card, went to Bearly Legal who got the better of our Members selection Kayf Supreme. The win advertised the skills of up and coming trainer Karl Thornton who does not train far from me. This was Karl Thornton's seventh winner from 31 runners in Ireland. The bumper went to Willie Mullins with Village Mystic who looked a nice horse , it was four winners on the day for Willie Mullins.
Monday ,started with the news that Sizing Granite had been transferred from Henry de Bromhead to Colm Murphy. It looks an odd move on the face of it however Colm Murphy has trained lots of big winners, it is one to watch. On the racing front Kempton over the jumps was the stand out . Wait For Me won the brilliantly named " Bellshill All The Final Furlong Novice Hurdle " at 1/5 Wait For Me looks decent despite not being fluent all the time he gave over a stone to the second horse Querry House. The Novice chase saw Local Show turn over Onenightinvienna by a head both look bound for the four mile at Cheltenham. Another horse Cheltenham bound is, A Hare Breath who gave 7 pounds and a 10 length beating to Midnight Cowboy. I liked the way Debdebdeb won the last race for Dan Skelton it was a good performance this horse can win again. Newcastle was abandoned
Tuesday, we start at Leicester who had a decent card. Tara Flow won the mares novice hurdle slamming the odds on fav The Organist by 6 lengths, Tara Flow looks alright to me she is one to keep on side. Doctor Harper got off the mark over fences for the David Pipe he has always been held in high regard.This horse jumps very well ,Doctor Harper now is dangerously well handicapped over fences the last race on the first day of The Cheltenham festival looks a natural target. The Novice Hurdle went to the well backed (15/8 -5/4) Hit The Highway who got the better of Knockgraffon who is also useful.
At Wetherby ,Pinkie Brown won the opener , For Goodness sake ran a shocker here so it is hard to know what the form is worth. Cultram Abbey won the handicap chase after being first off the bridle, our members selection Throthethatch moved up well to challenge but a bone crunching mistake at the third last finished him off. The Dutchman foiled the well backed No Comment in the last race after a protracted battle between the two horses.
Wednesday, we start at Catterick were Out Sam booked his trip to the Cheltenham Festival by winning the Novice Chase. In the handicap chase Star Presenter just hung on by a fast diminishing neck to hold off our members selection Nautical Twilight, who was trying to concede 15 pounds to Star Presenter . I think both horses can win again as they were 11 lengths clear of the third horse. The finale went to Notebook by an impressive 7 lengths, who like Star Presenter backed up a previous course victory.
The card at Thurles saw Swamp Fox look horns with Cradle Mountain in the juvenile hurdle having clashed earlier in the month, Swamp Fox upheld the form winning by a half a length.I reckon both horses will be Fred Winter bound at The Cheltenham Festival if they get in. The handicap hurdle went to Dragon Khan who landed a bit of a punt for JP McManus, it was nothing compared to the punt landed by Oscar Lantern (7/1 -11/10) for Charles Byrnes. There was no winner on an Irish card for Willie Mullins who suffered a bumper reversal as his odds on Sutton Manor was beaten into second by Any Drama by 22 Lengths, who might be very good.