O'Brien seeks strong Aspen showing before Cheltenham decision
Aspen Colorado bids to enhance his reputation with victory in the concluding race at Leopardstown this afternoon. The JP McManus-owned four-year-old was an impressive winner on his debut at this circuit in mid-January and is a best-priced 12/1 for next month's Champion Bumper, although he is not certain to make the journey to the Cotswolds.
Officially trained by Aidan O'Brien, the Ballydoyle maestro has credited his son, Joseph, with preparing his National Hunt string, and the once-raced four-year-old looks to make it two from two in the TRM Excellence In Equine Nutrition INH Flat Race. O'Brien junior said: "He's by Galileo out of a Danehill mare and would appreciate better ground. He might not go to Cheltenham. We'll see how he gets on at Leopardstown, then talk to Frank (Berry) and JP. He's a good jumper. That's where his future will be."
Aspen Colorado will concede weight to each of his five rivals this weekend.
Jessica Harrington's Clonkeen Lad appears up against it, having finished a distant fourth in the same Leopardstown heat last month, while The Sneaky Punter is the only other runner with previous experience, having finished fifth at Down Royal. The field is completed by three newcomers in Gordon Elliott's Brelade, the Barry Murphy-trained Balkalin and Twotensandalift from John Burke's yard.
Home Farm warms up for a tilt at the Crabbies Grand National in the Foxrock Cup Hurdle. Henry de Bromhead's charge was campaigned at the highest level last year, including when pulled up in the Gold Cup, but this season has been built around a trip to Aintree.
His sole run this term came at Clonmel in November when he was fourth to Noble Inn in a conditions hurdle and he can play a leading role in what is a similar contest.
Lil Rockerfeller can gain his just reward for a string of excellent efforts by landing a first Grade Two victory in the totepool National Spirit Hurdle at Fontwell. Neil King's charge is an admirable performer, having finished in the first four on each of his 11 previous hurdles outings to date, winning three times in the process.
His three hurdles victories include a competitive event at Sandown on the final day of last season, as well as a Listed event back at that track in December, when he appeared to win with plenty in hand.
Lil Rockerfeller subsequently chased home Camping Ground in the Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham on New Year's Day, while he again bagged a good chunk of the available prize money by finishing in third in an Ascot Grade Three since then.
He was shouldering top weight that day so deserves plenty of credit for not being beaten far in gruelling terrain, and the conditions of this race see him favourably treated against the likes of Medinas and Cheltenian.
Although he might not end up as quite World Hurdle calibre, Lil Rockerfeller should be good enough to scored a first graded verdict here.
Sunday Indo Sport