to watch 1 – Castlebrook
opener at Thurles is the three-and-a-half-mile Irish Stallion Farms EBF
Beginners’ Chase (12.15) and there is no shortage of interest in it. Among the
participants are the Peter Fahey-trained Mine Now, who is very experienced over
the larger obstacles and was last seen finishing sixth of 25 in the Troytown Chase,
form that was boosted by third-placed Magic Of Light’s emphatic listed chase
success at Newbury during the week.
Boy represents the Jessica Harrington-Robbie Power-Potts combo that prevailed
with Magic Of Light on Wednesday, while Westland Row (Gordon Elliott) and The
Conditional (Martin Hassett) are others with chances.
or lose, the one that will draw most of the attention is the giant Castlebrook.
Trained by Jimmy Mangan, who won the Aintree Grand National with Monty’s Pass
in 2003, the almost 18-hands high five-year-old is like Moonshine Boy, owned by
Alan and Ann Potts Limited.
bought the son of Oscar as a foal from breeder Cathal Ennis and sold him to
Alan Potts in a private deal after an eye-catching maiden victory at Tallow
Point-To-Point in February of last year. Potts left him with the Conna handler
and from four runs under Rules, Castlebrook has been second and third in
bumpers and second in two maiden hurdles.
his gigantic frame however, and his already-illustrated capacity to jump fences
spectacularly, Castlebrook needed time to fill his frame and it is no surprise
that a career in hurdling was never the long-term plan. He might not win first
time out but it would be a major disappointment if he did not go on to enjoy a
fair degree of success over the larger obstacles.
the seemingly forgotten man of the race for the jockeys’ title, Davy Russell is
on board. The champ goes back a long way with his fellow East Cork man Mangan.
We can expect a bold show.
to watch 2 – Rovetta
was interesting to note that Jessica Harrington mentioned Rovetta as perhaps
one of the less celebrated denizens of Commonstown Stud worth following in a
handicap hurdle at Limerick or Leopardstown over the Christmas period. Purchased
out of Pascal Bary’s yard in France, having not made it to the track as a
juvenile and had four runs at three, the daughter of So You Think proved a
wonderful advertisement for syndicates during the summer, winning three times
in August - twice at the Galway Festival, over hurdles and on the level, and
then at the Curragh – for the Capel Street Syndicate, who count Ireland and
Leinster rugby international and avowed racing fan, Seán ‘The Tullow Tank’
O’Brien among their ranks.
running in the colours of The Long Wait Partnership, the four-year-old has been
freshened up since failing to contend in a listed Flat handicap at Galway in
September. It is reasonable to assume that with relatively low mileage on the
clock, Rovetta still has some improvement to come and she must be showing well
at home to earn such a public stamp of approval from her trainer.
redeployment to the listed Irish Stallion Farms EBF Boreen Belle Mares’ Novice
Hurdle (2.00) is notable, though Honeysuckle (Henry de Bromhead) and Sassy Diva
(Shane Crawley) are to be feared. Of course finishing in the frame will provide
valuable black type and that may be the priority but with just five runners,
the ever-shrewd Harrington has spotted an opportunity.
to watch 3 – Political Policy
only seven, it seems like Political Policy has been around forever. Gavin
Cromwell’s admirable Bushranger gelding has raced a phenomenal 86 times,
winning on 11 occasions. He is best known as a Dundalk specialist, with his
first eight wins arriving on the all-weather. He finally got off the mark on
the turf in Navan last year.
introduced his charge to hurdles in January, when he finished third of 24 in a
maiden hurdle and that experience clearly stood to him when returning to the
discipline in July. Political Policy delighted followers with two triumphs in
seven days at Bellewstown and Downpatrick. He ran well in a hot renewal of the
Grade B Listowel Handicap Hurdle, won by Ballyoisin with Shanning, Voix Du
Reve, Plinth and Davids Charm also involved, and comes into this off a trip to
Market Rasen, where he was third.
unseasonably dry ground at Thurles for the Jimmy Neville Memorial Handicap
Hurdle (2.35) will definitely suit and his trainer has enjoyed a wonderful
year. One thing’s for sure, Political Policy won’t be short of supporters.