Sunday 26 February 2017

Lethal Weapon has enough firepower to conquer rivals

David Casey

THURSDAY is another busy day for the jumpers at Ballybrit. Of course, the Guinness Galway Hurdle is the main event of the entire week, and this year's race is wide open.

I ride Alpine Glade for Willie McCreery. She's a grand little mare that ran really well to finish third in the mares' Grade Three Hurdle at Punchestown in April, before turning me over when I rode the odds-on Sweeps Hill at Killarney in May. Since then she has just had a couple of spins on the Flat, and she gets in today off a nice weight of 10st. If the market is anything to go by, she is a bit of an outsider, but she can give a good account of herself.

Funny enough, when I won the race 14 years ago it was on the similarly big-priced little mare Mystical City, which also carried a light weight. So who knows, maybe the bookies are underestimating Alpine Glade.

I have to say, it's hard to nominate one of the 20 runners that really stands out. Obviously New Phase will be popular for Dermot Weld, and Donald McCain's Overturn is a good horse in the form of his life. If I had to pick a couple against the field, however, I'd probably go for Lethal Weapon and Slieveardagh. The latter has no weight on its back with Pat Mangan claiming 5lb off 9st 12lb, though its tendency to jump a bit left isn't ideal.

Lethal Weapon may be the pick of the lot. He was a decent novice and had a nice prep run on the Flat at The Curragh, so he might be coming into form at the right time.

Tribes And Banner is probably the best of my three other rides in the novice chase. He is a smart horse that has done nothing wrong over fences so far. He won his beginners' chase and his winners-of-one, and he was a good third to Schelm, which is much higher rated, at Killarney last time.

Tribes And Banner has his chance, but I'm worried that the undulations at Galway won't suit him. A similar comment applies to Charlie Swan's other runner, the four-time handicap winner Adajal. Beau Michael is probably the one to beat. On the balance of form he sets the standard, and he was impressive when he won on the Flat last week.

In the beginners' chase, I ride Hot Oscar for Charlie. She ran nicely to be second on her first start over fences at Downpatrick in May, and is a tough mare that stays and jumps well. I'm hoping she won't be far away if she gets a bit of luck.

Having said that, I'd expect Prince Erik to win this. He would have been the highest rated of the field over hurdles so, if he jumps well enough, he will be hard to stop now.

As a four-year-old having its first run over hurdles, Regal Ambition will be up against it for me in the novice hurdle. Cooper's Crest is probably the horse to be on. She may not have won like a money-on shot ought to at Limerick, but I'd expect her to put up a big show if none the worse for that effort a week ago. One other to note is Miranda's Girl in the fillies' seven-furlong handicap. Twice a winner here in 2008, she caught the eye with a good effort at The Curragh a couple of weeks ago.

CASEY'S FIVE TO FOLLOW

1.50 -- Prince Erik

2.25 -- Beau Michael

3.35 -- Miranda's Girl

4.10 -- Cooper's Crest

4.50 -- Lethal Weapon

Irish Independent

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