Four tips to finish the week from Andy Holding.
A race with a roll of honour that includes the likes of Pont Alexandre, Mikael D’Haguenet, Briar Hill, Bellshill, Death Duty and last year Next Destination, but with the greatest respect to the class of 2018, they look nowhere near that standard so far to date. That said, there still looks one or two promising types that might make the grade and of those, DEFI BLEU (best price 9-2) has shown in recent times that he’s at least going in the right direction.
Bitterly disappointing in his last attempt in this sort of grade over two miles at Naas last season, Gordon Elliot’s gelding seems to have improved immeasurably in the interim, and his most recent effort over today’s C&D suggests he’s now ready for another crack at a higher level. Staying on stoutly in the latter stages of a well-run affair, the son of Saddler Maker proved too strong for a quartet of Gigginstown-owned performers and with both his two victories in his career under rules originating from today’s course, that knowledge may well turn out to be a valuable weapon in the final analysis.
SALTY BOY (NAP) (best price 9-1) is a little short on experience in these sorts of events, but he proved last time out that he may have a bright future in handicap company and he’s fancied to go well at a track that clearly suits his tenacious attitude.
Following placed efforts in two maiden hurdles and a bumper, Mags Mullins’ inmate finally gained deserved success for those endeavours with a stylish win at Clonmel and with the time figure also backing up the visual impression of the performance, a mark of 126 looked more than fair as he stepped forward into his latest assignment. In a well-run affair on the final circuit at the Co Meath venue, the son of more than held his own in the latter stages and with the likes of De Name Escapes Me and Nobody Home shouting from the rooftops how good the form is with victories next time out, the lightly-raced five-year-old is a must for any shortlist on ground that should suit based on his point-to-point success back in February (soft).
Not that many jump off the page here, so it’s best left to those down the front end of the market and one of them, MACK THE MAN (best price 9-2), makes quite a bit of appeal having run better than his finishing position suggested in a hot novice event at Chepstow last time out.
For regular followers of this column, that race in question at the Welsh track should be imbedded in the mind now as a serious piece of form (Know The Score, Newtide and Diger Daudaie all won since) and having run well up to the point where stamina and fitness became an issue, Evan Williams’ gelding was entitled to be marked up better than his eventual seventh place finish. Obviously, the favourite here, Umbrigado, is going to take quite a bit of beating if he takes to hurdles given the way he landed his bumper at Uttoxeter a month ago, but so well did the four-year-old son of Flemensfirth travel on hurdles debut that he should be capable of at least giving the Pipe horse a race, with the drop back down in trip seen as another massive positive.
This will end up being a proper slog in the conditions and that should suit FLASHJACK (best price 13-2) down to the ground. On four occasions last season, Henry Daly’s gelding proved that given a real test of stamina in heavy ground he was more than equal to the task and it was nice to see he had plenty of appetite for the fight on his opening bow to this campaign. In a protracted dual with Penn Lane all the way down the FFos Las home straight, the son of Soapy Danger never once shirked the issue and even though he narrowly came out second best, he had to be carried away on his shield. Back up to a more suitable trip here this afternoon, the game eight-year-old should once again give another bold account.