Tuesday 16 January 2018

Moon Dice can come up trumps for Flynn

OF the four Irish-trained runners in the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham tomorrow, Jack Cool and Moon Dice are the two most likely to figure at the death.

Since Charles Byrnes secured Tony McCoy's services on Jack Cool, that one has been nibbled at in the betting, but he still represents a reasonable each-way option at around 14/1.

A winner at Fairyhouse over Easter, the five-year-old has contested two decent hurdle races this term, finishing fifth to Captain Cee Bee at Tipperary in July and third to Steps To Freedom at Punchestown last month.

Following Steps To Freedom's triumph at Cheltenham yesterday, that piece of form reads nicely now, so Jack Cool should be thereabouts again. Moon Dice, a top-priced 8/1 yesterday evening, has slightly more appeal given his unexposed nature.

While Paul Flynn's commanding Galway Hurdle winner has run nine times over flights, the Longford handler claims to have only recently come to understand the horse's quirks. In short, Moon Dice needs to be kept fresh, and Flynn's careful placing of him has now yielded two taking successes, a Limerick rout in May preceding his Ballybrit tour de force.

Moon Dice is 14lbs higher here, but Flynn holds his stable star in high regard. So long as conditions remain on the good side, then it would be no surprise to see the Longford handler and his old weighing-room colleague Tom Doyle collect again.

Earlier Al Ferof can get favourite backers off to a perfect start in the Independent Newspapers Novices' Chase. Even apart from Paul Nicholls' Supreme Novices' Hurdle winner, this is a superb race, with many of the other eight runners potentially smart.

Nonetheless, the French-bred Al Ferof is an immensely classy individual, so it would be some surprise if he doesn't justify short odds under Walsh.

Outsider to note

Evan Williams' Jolly Roger is worth a speculative foray at long odds in the two-mile-five-furlong handicap hurdle at Cheltenham tomorrow.

The 18-runner heat is wide open, and the four-year-old may not be badly treated off a first-time mark of 116 for 10st 8lbs. Successful once in five starts last term, he was generally consistent, and began well over fences this time round when getting off the mark at Ludlow in October.

Two subsequent falls have knocked the gloss off that, but such a young horse should be able to bounce back, so Jolly Roger is not to be written off under Noel Fehily here.

Sunday Yankee

Cheltenham 1.10 -- Al Ferof

Cheltenham 2.20 -- Moon Dice

Cheltenham 2.55 -- Jolly Roger

Limerick 12.45 -- Jenari

Numbers game

25,000 What Darley's Teofilo costs in euro per service, after Jim Bolger's star had his fee raised by 10k on the back of a first-season crop that included the trainer's Dewhurst winner Parish Hall. For 20k, your mare can visit Coolmore's Derby hero Pour Moi.

120,000 The bid, in euro, that purchased Willie Mullins' former race mare J'y Vole for breeding at Tattersalls last Sunday.

16 Brendan Powell's age. The trainer's son, yet to ride a winner over jumps, seeks to emulate his father's 1995 Paddy Power success on Dublin Flyer when he partners Oiseau De Nuit today.

Quote of the week

"I asked if the singing could be either stopped or turned down -- it upset one of my horses -- but Mr Walters took grave exception to this and took his horses away the next day. I didn't think it quite justified that, but there you are. I probably won't have to retire because of it" -- Richard Lee, after owner and Ffos Las supremo Dai Walters was offended by the trainer's request to moderate the music at the Welsh venue.

Three things we

learned this week

1 Solwhit's chasing career might be further delayed. Charles Byrnes has revealed that his stable star, which would be the highest-rated Irish hurdler to make the transition to fences since Limestone Lad in 2000, incurred an injury that will postpone his debut until the new year. Sadly, he has strained a suspensory ligament, the same ailment that sidelined Hurricane Fly for six months prior to Punchestown in 2009. As Fly has demonstrated since, it is something that shouldn't stop Solwhit in the long-term, but the recovery requires patience. By the time Solwhit is ready for road, Byrnes might well opt to preserve his novice status for next season.

2 St Nicholas Abbey's Breeders' Cup triumph offered resounding evidence of the benefits of Lasix. Having initially rejected the anti-bleeding drug, which is to be phased out of the Breeders' Cup by 2013, Aidan O'Brien revised his stance after Man Of Iron, his only winner at the meeting for eight years prior to Saturday, showed such good form on it at Santa Anita in 2009. This time, St Nicholas Abbey finally looked like the horse he once promised to be, and it's no coincidence it was the first time he ran on Lasix. As O'Brien himself has said, when in Rome ...

3 Jessica Harrington could be back in the big time. The Moone handler has been devoid of a serious horse since Moscow Flyer's retirement, but Steps To Freedom, only switched to her care from Gordon Elliott's in the summer, battled hard to maintain his unbeaten record at Cheltenham yesterday. The sky's the limit now.

Racing Diary

Monday: Limerick, Leicester, Plumpton, Wolverhampton (AW)

Tuesday: Fakenham, Folkestone, Southwell (AW)

Wednesday: Fairyhouse, Hexham, Kempton* (AW), Lingfield (AW), Warwick

Thursday: Thurles, Hereford, Kempton* (AW), Market Rasen, Wincanton

Friday: Dundalk* (AW), Ascot, Haydock, Kempton (AW), Wolverhampton* (AW)

Saturday: Punchestown, Ascot, Haydock, Huntingdon, Lingfield (AW), Wolverhampton* (AW)

Sunday: Cork, Punchestown, Exeter, Towcester

Irish Independent

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