2.10 County Hurdle

I’m not a fan of Juvenile Hurdles, especially after seeing Wednesday’s Fred Winter shenanigans so let’s start with the easy task of deciphering the County Hurdle. There are any number of well handicapped horses in here but it would be silly to disregard Blue Hell who won what was easily the best handicap hurdle run in Ireland this season.

Alan Fleming’s gelding beat three subsequent winners at Fairyhouse in November including Wednesday’s Coral Cup hero, Diamond King. Although that victory was seriously impressive, it certainly hasn’t gone unnoticed by the handicapper and he now runs off a 22lb higher mark which looks a bit harsh to me and at his current price I’m not all that mad about him. At a massive price, I’d give an EW squeak to Ivan Grozny, who should enjoy the return to better ground and will certainly like the helter-skelter pace he’s guaranteed to get here.

This son of Turtle Bowl isn’t devoid of class, having finished 3rd in a Group 3 on the flat in France. He was sent off favourite for a Grade One Juvenile at Leopardstown in Jan ’14 before going off as short as 7/1 for the Fred Winter. He beat the very useful Kitten Rock in a Grade Three at Fairyhouse and had been off the track for almost two years when he made his reappearance in the Coral.ie Hurdle at Leopardstown in January. There’s no doubt he’ll have to improve dramatically on what he has shown this season, but I do think he’s feasibly treated off 143 if finding his old form and at around 50/1 you won’t have to pay much to find out.

Of the others, I think Modus has a great chance as he’s well handicapped and has been waiting all season for good ground. He ran a cracker in the bumper last year so we know he goes on the track and the pace they go in this race should also help him settle.
Ivan Grozny - 1pt @ 50/1

2.50 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle

Despite the weakness of Barters Hill on the exchange yesterday, I still think he’s the horse they all have to go and beat in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle. This horse reminds me so much of Don Poli in that he looks slow to the naked eye but when something comes up to his hind quarters he just always seems to pull out enough.

I’ve no doubt that, despite looking a like a bit of an eejit on occasions, this horse is highly intelligent and I’m pretty confident we haven’t even scraped the surface of his ability yet. When you look through the formbook at what he has beaten, it’s hard not to step-back and ask how is this horse as big as 5/1 in a place? We saw on Thursday what the power of a negative comment can do when Vautour was available to back at 11/10 and look at what he did to the Ryanair field. Have faith in Barters, he won’t let you down.
Barters Hill - 1pt @ 9/2

3.30 Gold Cup

Speaking of horses who lead you to believe they’re a bit of an eejit, but just always seem to do enough when a question is asked of them, I believe Don Poli will win the Gold Cup. Cheltenham form, and more importantly, festival form, is so crucial and Don Poli has that in abundance. He’s unbeaten at the festival in two starts and, like Barters Hill, I don’t think we’ve scraped the surface of his ability yet. He’s a hard horse to gauge as he idles in front but you need to jump well and stay well to win a Gold Cup and that’s exactly what he does. He has a lot to find on bare form, but don’t be fooled, when the taps are turned on at the top of the hill, Don Poli will come alive and if he’s within three of four lengths of the lead turning in, please form an orderly queue as it’s time to collect your winnings.
Don Poli - 1pt @ 5/1

4.10 Foxhunter Chase

I’m backing two in the Amateur’s Gold Cup, Aupcharlie and It Came To Pass. The former has a lot of back-class, having finished second in the Grade One Topaz Novice Chase in his heyday. He ran a cracker in the Festival Plate last year over a trip that was probably on the short side for him. He has impressed me in both of his wins between the flags this season and he has an absolute genius on his back in Jamie Codd. Henry de Bromhead believes the trip, ground and course will bring out the best in him and at 9/1 he represents decent value. The latter is very inexperienced but he’s a half-brother to Gold Cup winner, Lord Windermere, and ran a cracker against more experienced rivals in the Raymond Smith at Leopardstown on Irish Gold Cup day. He’s highly rated by connections and if he can overcome his inexperience he has a massive chance.
Aupcharlie - 1pt @ 10/1
It Came To Pass - 1pt @ 12/1

4.50 Martin Pipe Conditionals Hurdle

This race revolves around just one horse for me, Squouateur. He has looked super impressive in his two handicap wins and the form of his latest victory was well and truly franked by Mall Dini in the Pertemps yesterday. He looks thrown in off 141 and had the best conditional either side of the Irish Sea on his back.
Squouateur - 1pt @ 4/1