Race of the weekend
The Lawlor’s of Naas Novice Hurdle (1.50)
is a Grade 1 contest in name and substance. It might be reasonable to expect a
slight lull in proceedings after the drama of the Christmas period but this
being a two-and-a-half-mile contest, it has attracted a stellar field, with
novices not catered for at this grade at the intermediate trip during the
The nine participants have won 18 races
between them already under NH Rules, 12 of them coming this season. So there is
real depth to the affair, with those coming directly from their maiden hurdle
successes entitled to be asked the next, more searching question, while others
have already had a go at graded level.
One of the nine will break new ground on
Sunday but it isn’t in any way outlandish to state with assurance that a number
of these will triumph at some pattern level. It would be a shock if more than
the Naas victor doesn’t become a Grade 1 winner.
Right now, they are all about potential,
with most of them very inexperienced yet apart from Getareason, the Willie
Mullins-trained dual winner that has run nine times since making his debut in a
Downpatrick bumper in March, and most recently finished a very good second to
Easy Game in the Grade 2 Navan Novice Hurdle three weeks ago.
Mullins is also represented by Tornado
Flyer and Come To Me. Gordon Elliott has two participants, with Noel Meade,
Joseph O’Brien, Jessica Harrington and Mouse Morris completing the field.
Favouritism is likely to be contested by
Tornado Flyer, the Champion Bumper winner at Punchestown in April who came through
his maiden hurdle impressively, and Battleoverdoyen, the point-to-point
graduate (via Jerry Cosgrave) that was purchased by Gordon Elliott for
Gigginstown House Stud and has been ultra-impressive in his only two racecourse
Whoever wins, will be very good indeed.
Jockey to watch 1 – Andrew Lynch
It will be great to see Andrew Lynch back
in action at Cork tomorrow. With a long-established reputation as one of the
hardest-working jockeys in the weigh room, the Meath man has endured some bad injuries
over the years and makes his return after a six-week absence as a result of
fracturing thoracic vertebrae.
Missing out on Christmas would have stung
and he also had to look on as the likes of Castlegrace Paddy won Cork’s Grade 2
Hilly Way Chase, with Paul Townend stepping into the plate, earlier in December.
It tells you all you need to know about
Lynch, a man who has recorded 20 Grade 1 successes and been associated with the
likes of Sizing Europe, Flemenstar, Voler La Vedette and Notre Pere among
others, that his four assignments over the weekend are provided by four
different trainers. Few jockeys clock up more miles than Lynch in the
willingness to work or school a horse and that industry pays dividends in terms
So Tom Mullins (Lucky Icon), Terence
O’Brien (Ballyadam Destiny) and Norman Lee (Johnny Girl) are utilising his
talents tomorrow, while Declan Queally calls on him to resume his regular
partnership with the likeable mare Tell Me Annie at Naas on Sunday. It would be
lovely he could notch up a winner on his comeback but his phone will continue
to ring regardless.
Jockey to watch 2 – Seán McDermott
Seán McDermott might not be familiar to a
lot of the racing public because for the last five years, he has only been
riding in Ireland for a couple of months during the winter. McDermott is now
based in America, along with a number of other Irish jockeys including Ross
Geraghty, Jack Doyle, Willie McCarthy and Darren Nagle.
The Kerry native has enjoyed a lot of
success, with the Grade 1 Iroquois Hurdle on the former Eugene O’Sullivan Kildorrery
point-to-point winner Scorpiancer, close to the summit of his achievements.
He has made the trips home pay off in the
past, including winning at Leopardstown in Christmas 2017 on the Tom Mullins-trained
Sparky Stowaway. Indeed, it is a notable feat that despite riding primarily across
the Atlantic in recent years, he has still managed to record at least one
triumph on home turn for 19 seasons running.
One imagines that he would love to extend that
to 20. Gavin Cromwell provides him with a chance on Brisk Tempo at Cork
tomorrow, while Gerard Keane will give him the leg up on Howaya Aoife at Naas.