We head over to Ireland for a competitive jumps card. I was going to focus on Fontwell but given that card is under threat from the weather, needed to look elsewhere.
Starting with the Woodlands Park 100, a novice handicap chase over two and a half miles, Bishops Road is the favourite for Gigginstown, Cooper and De Bromhead, however the yard having really been firing as well as I have liked. He won well the last time and is progressive, but given the yard form I’m willing to overlook. Empire of Dirt comes from the same ownership but tipped up at the last in Thurles. He is ahead of his mark but this is a marked step up in class and he could struggle. Fine Rightly brings a bit of class to the race but will have a tough job carrying around top weight.
Selection comes for what is a bit off a cliff horse for me, but I am convinced he is ahead of the handicapper and when he finally puts it all together he will be a top quality horse. He is of course the nut job Champagne James. Finally returned to his right trip he could take all the beating off a mark of 126. His last two runs have been disappointing but he was well punted which to me suggests they think he is good order at home. Ted Walsh horse is the most likely winner for me.
Champagne James (E/W if 5/1+)
While there may only be six runners for this grade two novice hurdle contest, it looks a good contest on paper. Max Dynamite brings with him some Kitten Rock form and he is the favourite for the Mullins team. Beaten 14 lengths behind the afore mentions Champion hurdle contender he was never in a challenging position and his maiden didn’t work out as well as expected. He can be overlooked.
Aminabad has been overlooked for All hell Let Loose by retained jockey Bryan Cooper, which says a lot about the afore-mentioned horse. The later has some good form behind Nicholas Canyon in the Royal Bond and Bentelimar in a listed hurdle (Aminabad) was behind that day. He could be dangerous but may also be lacking a level to compete here.
Lean Araig needs a lot further, which showed last time, needing every yard to beat the well handicapped Mydor. He has won his last two and is worthy of his place. The selection is Modem who ran a belter last time out in the Boylesports hurdle.
He has a very progressive profile. Unseating at the first in his début over timber, he then chased home Supreme Novice hot-pot Douvan, winning next time out, before taking on more experienced horses next time out in a novice handicap. But probably his most impressive performance to date come in the Boylesports hurdle when finishing second to a well handicapped mare. Jessie Harrington horse didn’t get the clearest of runs coming to the last and was well clear of the rest. Modem has a real live chance here before going to Cheltenham.
We finish with another grade two contest on Cheltenham trials day at Naas, with this race as far from a trail as anything we have seen. The selection is the short priced favourite and while this is a small select field. At time of writing I cannot believe the price of Mallowney. A shade of odds against is wheel barrow stuff of dreams prior to Cheltenham! He was so very impressive the last time out winning a hard held ten lengths from the well fancied Bright New Dawn. He is not crossing the Irish Sea this March with the Irish Champion Chase at the Punchestown festival very much the target. Solely on ratings he has a fair bit in hand on these conditions with only Twinlight higher rated.
Davy Russell taking the ride is a big positive with knowledge of Moscow Mannon also. He really shouldn’t be beaten. Some of this does depend on which Twinlight shows up but the form of his Grade One success has already proved very untrustworthy.
So its Mallowney for me he ticks all the boxes and if he reproduces his last run he should be winning.