Meri can be another one for Townend
Big day for yard tomorrow despite having no runner in Irish Gold Cup
We have no representative in the feature Stan James Gold Cup at Leopardstown tomorrow, but the decision was made, unlike last year, that Djakadam would go to Cheltenham especially fresh.
Sizing John is interesting; I sense his succession of defeats by Douvan is serving to conceal his ability. His was a good staying effort in Thurles; will three miles bring about improvement? He's fascinating, though Don Poli appears the one to beat.
Many will be a little surprised Ruby has deserted Meri Devie in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle (2.30). Bapaume has more experience; his form is of a higher standard. That is probably the safe bet for Ruby, the obvious choice.
However, I think Meri Devie getting 7lb could provide Paul Townend with another second-string Grade One winner.
Bapaume is small and short, a real juvenile hurdler. She has the physique to jump fences. She'll be better in a year or two to come.
We've five in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle (3.00). The way the cards fell with the dry autumn, a lot of the horses started later and, if they are going to Cheltenham, they need the experience.
This race has a fantastic record of throwing up Cheltenham winners and, it being a Grade One, we decided to let them all take their chance. Saturnas looks the one on form at the track. As a Grade One winner which was second in the Royal Bond, he is a proper Grade One horse. He has the most experience as well.
With the others it is hard to know. Bunk Off Early works very well but as he was a miler on the Flat he has a lot of speed. The others won maidens comfortably, Bravissimo and Chateau Conti unknown quantities.
My ride, Bacardys, won the Aintree Bumper for me last year and a Leopardstown bumper too. However, the top bumper form last year has not worked out very strongly, nor has his form of beating Kolumbus at Christmas. He needs to step up.
Bellshill has lots in his favour in the Flogas Novice Chase (3.30). The drier ground, Leopardstown always so well-drained, will be to his liking and I believe that this is his ideal trip. He has a good blend of speed and stamina - though he is only the third-highest rated horse in the race! I feel he may have an extra gear over Our Duke.
Bleu Et Rouge has schooled well since his unseat last time and we are stepping him up in trip so he can jump at a slightly slower pace. That will help him to jump better. He is a Grade One winner with a huge engine; considering his jumping, his performance at Christmas was phenomenal. He may need further in time.
In the Leopardstown Club Membership (Pro/Am) Flat Race (5.00), I like Voix Des Tiep a lot. He works well and if he wins he could go to Cheltenham. He is a tall, French-looking horse.
We are represented in just two races at Naas this afternoon, with Listen Dear attempting yet another victory in the BBA Ireland Limited Opera Hat Mares Chase (3.20).
She has been a fantastic horse this season, yet will need a career-best because she is 6lb badly off with Slow Motion. Giving 11lb to a filly like that is going to be very difficult; it is a big test for Listen Dear and we will find out how good she is. Given she's not very big and was originally bought on DoneDeal, she jumps exceptionally well. Jumping fences has enticed improvement - it's not always size.
We have a fascinating Cavan Developments Home Builder Supporting Kill GAA (Pro/Am) Flat Race (5.00), in which my father's Carter Mckay takes on West Coast Time, which I rode to success in the Tabor silks at Cork.
This is a top-class bumper: the big two could be in the semi-circle at Cheltenham in March. Carter Mckay's form has been well-boosted but I was really taken with West Coast Time at Cork. He has a fabulous pedigree. It will be intriguing and hard to call.
NAAS 3.20 Listen Dear 5.00 Carter Mckay
LEOPARDSTOWN 2.30 Meri Devie 3.00 Saturnas 3.30 Belshill 5.00 Voiz Des Tiep