Cathaoir Mor provides yard with latest big lift
Sunday was a great day for the yard with An Cathaoir Mor winning the Frank Ward Solicitors Irish Arkle Chase at Leopardstown. I've always thought he was a fair horse, but big-field maiden hurdles just didn't seem to suit him last year and our horses weren't running so well then either.
Sunday's race was one that we have had in mind for him since the start of the season, and he earned his ticket by beating Nicanor and Cousin Vinny at Fairyhouse the previous Sunday.
When I weighed him on the Monday after Fairyhouse he was 10 kilos lighter than he was going there but, by the Wednesday, he had put it all back on, plus another two. That made the decision to run at Leopardstown easy.
Going into the race, I actually thought our biggest threat was Zaarito rather than Sports Line, so the task was made a bit easier when he fell early on.
As a big, strapping horse that loves heavy ground, An Cathaoir Mor probably wouldn't be suited to Cheltenham. I may be a bit overcautious in saying that, but there are plenty of other options here for him, and he could end up in something like the Powers Gold Cup at Fairyhouse.
Speaking of Cheltenham, I hope to go there with a strong team this year, headed, of course, by Sizing Europe in the Irish Independent Arkle Trophy.
I've backed off him since he won at Leopardstown over Christmas as I think he is a far better horse fresh, so he's just tipping away. I don't want to get drawn into the debate over who would have won if Captain Cee Bee hadn't fallen, but I know one thing: our horse didn't jump anywhere near as well as he normally does.
If you look at any of Europe's previous runs, he accelerates through the air at his fences. He did exactly that at the first fence at Leopardstown, but he must have twigged something because he was ultra cautious after that until Andrew Lynch had to really force him when the race quickened up.
Anyway, he has had the full treatment here in the meantime from the physio and the chiropractor. We're happy that we've got him right again now and his jumping is as good as it used to be, so he should be spot on for Cheltenham.
Loosen My Load and Sizing Australia are two others that will travel to the festival with chances. Loosen My Load won a Grade Two at the Cheltenham November meeting and will go for one of the novice hurdles.
Sizing Australia was placed twice behind Garde Champetre in the cross-country races in November and December, so the March equivalent will be his target.
A Cheltenham Festival win would top what has been an unbelievable spell for the yard. With 22 domestic winners already, we are enjoying our best season.
On top of that there was Loosen My Load's win at Cheltenham, and we've had four winners from seven runners in 'points'; as well as Withnail's win over six furlongs at Dundalk in November. The challenge now is to keep it going.
This weekend will be quiet, however. Green Mining is our only runner at Fairyhouse tomorrow, though he wouldn't be without a chance. He has been placed in a maiden hurdle already, but he ran disappointingly over two and a half miles last time, so we are dropping him back to two tomorrow. With a bit of luck, that might do the trick.
For more information on this weekend's fixtures, go to www.goracing.ie