A very good slate of races on both sides of the Irish sea with the main focus been at Fairyhouse on what is usually a very informative card. Leicester and Carlisle also host decent cards but I am going to stay at the Fairyhouse track.
We start with the grade one Royal Bond over two miles won by Nichols Canyon and Willie Mullins has another strong hand with Long Dog and Bachasson. A Henry De Bromhead horse Three Stars is the key horse in this race. Long Dog beat that horse by ten lengths at Galway in July and has done nothing wrong and been consistent. He is very race fit and while a very short price is fairly unopposable based on that form. Bachasson only beat Three stars by three lengths while Archive was beaten last time comfortably. Long Dog is an exciting type. With the ground likely to be desperate today he will need to stay and the fact he has won over two and a half miles this season is a positive. I would imagine this is likely to be his main target and will be given a break prior to the spring festivals.
Archive to me is the main danger and looks overpriced but I couldn’t recommend a win only selection given only five runners here.
Long Dog (WIN)
Another grade one in the form of the Hatton Grace over two and a half miles. Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins again are mob handed with Champion Hurdle second Arctic Fire and the undefeated Clondaw Court. The latter is likely to be the odds on favourite but I reckon he is opposable here. He won a grade two at Navan last time just getting up to beat Monksland who needs further and Noel Meades improve for the run. I would mark that form down and I don’t think he wants this trip on this ground given two of the runners really like to get on with things. Clondaw Court is still an unknown quantity. This will reveal more and given connections he is hard to punt with a short price on offer.
Alpha Des Obeaux is the selection and one look at is form is enough to convince me. Even his last two runs. Seven lengths to Nichols Canyon at Punchestown and fell when going just as well as Thistlecrack at Aintree. Both have since truely franked that form over the past couple of weeks. He has also placed behind Dovan and Black Hercules. He doesn’t lack pace and stays well and if Mouse Morris has him ready first time out. Another yard in good form is Alan Fleming. Gwencily Berbas won nicely last time out in a minor event. The owner and trainer have both been fairly honest that he will be a chaser and they won’t be given too hard a time but he is a nice type and worth his chance here.
Alpha Des Obeaux (WIN)
The feature event the Drinmore Grade One Chase over two mile four.
No More Heroes is a horse I really like and he won very impressively last time out on chase début. What he beat is hard to know however he has to be respected. Last season he started out well but then fell apart later in the year. To me he has a bit to prove now and is opposable. The next three in the market, Free Expression, Monksland and Outlander are closely matched. Outlander beat Free Expression last time but my preference would be for Free Expression. He was hampered the whole way round by the loose horse and at a key time he didn’t have a clear run. While both will improve I think Free Expression has the more potential over fences and should reverse the form. He represents Barry Geraghty best chance on the day and from talking to Gordon Elliot staff he had schooled impeccably and they were really excited by him for the season.
Monksland won an above average beginners chase last time and while I’d be confident the other three are up to this level. Monksland needs to show me he can compete at Grade One level.
Shantou Flyer is also a big price for the each way players and has the most experience and will pounce should any of the main protagonists fail.
Free Expression (WIN)