Friday 24 November 2017

Melon looks ripe to make the most of Labaik's quirks

Gigginstown’s Disko has the strongest form for the Growise Champion Novice Chase. Photo: Sportsfile
Gigginstown’s Disko has the strongest form for the Growise Champion Novice Chase. Photo: Sportsfile

Patrick Mullins

To paraphrase The Clash and their English No 1 hit, today's Herald Novice Hurdle (4.20) is all about one thing: should Labaik stay put at the start, or should he go off with the rest - as he did on the way to winning at Cheltenham.

Unlike at Cheltenham, there is no hunting crop (someone waving a whip to get him started), and that leaves me and many punters with reservations about this quirky sort. There's no doubt he was a winner on merit in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle when he beat our own Melon; we had no complaint.

However, Melon is much more reliable from a betting point of view and you'd like to think he has a bit more improvement in him as that was only his second run over hurdles at the Festival.

My father is triple-handed in this Grade One over an extended two miles and Bunk Off Early is likely to represent decent each-way value on ground he will enjoy. You can ignore his Cheltenham run. The third string to our bow, Cilaos Emery, has been really keen over hurdles this season and again was so at Cheltenham in the Supreme so he must learn how to settle.

Un De Sceaux is not at his best over two miles on this ground and you'd prefer either farther or softer ground than he gets in the feature (5.30) but Sprinter Sacre is the only horse to have beaten him over fences apart from when he fell on his debut.

He beat Special Tiara last year too and on that line of form he should continue his unbeaten season. I feel he is fantastic for racing as he is a character, yet is probably under-appreciated, not getting the fanfare of some of our other horses. He is an amazing horse.

Ballycasey got his act together this season - about time - and his wins were very fulfilling. Like Un De Sceaux, he can be spectacular, with some jaw-dropping jumps this season. He can get some of the purse.

My father has no runner in the novice chase (6.40); we were not happy with Bellshill. It is a competitive race. Disko, favourite, has the strongest form.


However, Drinmore second Anibale Fly must be taken seriously. The ground looks too quick for both Acapella Bourgeois and A Genie In Abottle.

I am disappointed not to have a ride in the Ladies' Cup (3.40), with its beautiful trophy which my father won as a jockey. Enniskillen may be hard to beat in it, having been second in it the past two years, and Peter Maher is very good at the banks.

Pique Sous was disappointing for us at Cork. We thought he'd run a lot better and there was no obvious excuse. He has come out of the race fine and the 4.55 is not as strong as you'd expect for the prize-money.

People talk about the few dominating racing but here is a valuable handicap with only 11 runners which a horse rated 108 could run in. It's disappointing that it's not better supported. Veinard, a little unlucky at Fairyhouse, could be the one for Gordon Elliott.

We run Hollowgraphic, a fine big chasing type, in the Goffs Land Rover Bumper (6.05). His work at home is good and it wasn't an easy decision not to ride him; however, Early Doors won very well at Punchestown and Joseph O'Brien's charge has no penalty.

I am going for the championship and felt that riding the horse with experience and winning form without a penalty was the thing to do. I'd be far from sure it is the right decision as I really like Hollowgraphic. He's one to follow for the future.

I ride for my cousin Emmet in the finale (7.15). The Butcher Said is by Robin Des Champs out of a King's Theatre mare - what's not to like? - and he is a fine chasing type. Emmet does not tell me a lot about him - a typical trainer! He must like him to be running him here, though it's a deep race.

It is going to be very hard to beat Jamie Codd in the amateur riders' title; I trail by two. When Gigginstown's horses left us at the start of the season, I didn't think I'd get this close. Jamie has been riding fantastically well. If he wins, he'll be a very deserving winner - but I'll be giving my all.

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