Big Weekend: Looking ahead to racing at Thurles

Friday, December 21, 2018
Big Weekend 21st December

Big Weekend: Looking ahead to racing at Thurles

Horse to watch 1 – Castlebrook

The 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.

Moonshine 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.

Win 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.

Mangan 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.

Given 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.

Notably, 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.


Horse to watch 2 – Rovetta

It 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.

Now 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.

The 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.


Horse to watch 3 – Political Policy

Though 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.

Cromwell 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.

The 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.

It 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.