Tuesday 12 December 2017

Air Force One can strike on flying visit to Down Royal

Thomas Kelly

WHILE Irish horses have been busily making their way to Cheltenham, one animal heading in the opposite direction is Charlie Mann's Air Force One, which heads to Down Royal this afternoon for the featured Guinness Chase.

The eight-year-old gelding has already won once on this side of the Irish Sea, landing the Grade One Ellier Developments Champion Novice Chase at the Punchestown Festival in 2008, although his best piece of form was achieved that November when he finished runner-up to Madison Du Berlais in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury.

However, Air Force One has had niggling problems since then, and things didn't get any better at Doncaster earlier this month when he unseated his rider early on.

One Cool Cookie won this contest under Davy Russell 12 months ago and he has the benefit on this occasion of 17-year-old Adrian Heskin, fresh from his cross-country success on A New Story at Cheltenham yesterday.

There is no doubt that Charlie Swan's nine-year-old is likely to feature prominently, but Air Force Once -- which will be ridden by promising conditional PJ Toole -- gets the vote to regain his best.

Dunguib's trainer-jockey combination of Philip Fenton and Brian O'Connell might have been out of luck at Cheltenham yesterday, but they can gain some compensation in the three-mile beginners chase with Caim Hill.

A talented novice hurdler, this seven-year-old has taken time to find his feet over the larger obstacles, but looks sure to benefit from the good ground in a race which should not take a lot of winning.

Paul Nolan is taken to land the two-mile novices chase with Earth And Sky, which showed some promise behind Final Question at Clonmel last time.

Nolan also has prospects of visiting the winner's enclosure at his local track in Wexford where Point Of Light can plunder the opening maiden hurdle while Francis Flood's Slievecorragh can follow up in the Richard Browne & Sons Ltd Hurdle. Dermot Weld may be more preoccupied with Rite Of Passage and his Champion Bumper horses across the Irish Sea, but his Vital Plot could prove the biggest danger to Slievecorragh if rediscovering his best form.

Just three runners go to post for the Martin Kent Memorial Chase, but all can be given a shout. Organisedconfusion comes here in winning form having struck at Gowran Park, while Frontier Lady was still in the box seat when coming to grief last time and will be out to make amends.

The chance of The Last Hurrah must also be respected too, but as a five-year-old Organisedconfusion has more scope for improvement and gets the nod.

Irish Independent

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