I'VE PICKED UP A PLUM RIDE FOR JONJO IN THE ULTRA-COMPETITIVE FAIRYHOUSE FEATURE
Although I’ve won the Grand National at Aintree I’m still waiting for my first one at home and there’s no point in disguising the fact that I’m going to need a big rub-of-the-green to put that straight on Monday at Fairyhouse.
Ok, I know this is always a tough one to call but in all honesty I can’t remember a tighter race than this one, possibly the most competitive handicap chase that I’ve ever ridden in.
The favourite will start about 12-1 and there definitely won’t be many priced much longer than 25-1.
Having got that out of the way I do think I have a very realistic chance with SHUTTHEFRONTDOOR (5.00) in the Irish Grand National.
This is a horse with plenty of improvement left in him and he’s trained by a man that excels in getting one ready for a big staying handicap chase - Jonjo O’Neill, who won this in 2007.
The vibes I’m getting from Jackdaws Castle are very good indeed and that’s encouraging because all I know about this lad is what I’ve seen.
I’ll only be the second professional to ride him because Alan Berry rode him in his first two bumpers that he won and last time in the National Hunt Chase it was for amateurs and Nina Carberry took over.
Other than that it’s been AP all the time and I’ve got the call because he’s suspended. I’ll have a word with him beforehand but the horse looks very straightforward.
He missed a few when it mattered at Cheltenham and but for that would have been a bit closer than three lengths off the winner and the nicer ground is definitely a plus, too.
In a normal year a horse like Cause Of Causes would have been a standout for this having looked a bit unlucky at the Cheltenham Festival with that last-fence mistake in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir.
Sure, he might end up at the head of the market but it’ll be around 12-1.
Tammy’s Hill has a massive chance on his win in the Foxhunter Chase at Cheltenham because he’ll love the better ground.
He probably got to the front at Cheltenham a bit earlier than he liked and a strongly run race like this will play to his strengths.
I’ll tell you something, it would take a very brave man to pick a few of these that won’t win but given the open aspect of the race I definitely wouldn’t be looking at anything past my ride.
I may be on KITTEN ROCK (2.45) in the Grade 3 four-year-old hurdle and I’d be fancying his chances. He’s won his last two very easily for Edward O’Grady and he’s missed all the big events at Cheltenham and Aintree to come for this a fresh horse.
He’s well worth a second look because Edward is very sweet on him.
REBEL CAN STRIKE GOLD IN EASTER SUNDAY'S SHOWPIECE
I’ve got Saturday off but Sunday is a busy one at Fairyhouse where I kick off with a good chance for Jessie Harrington in the two-mile maiden hurdle, ROCK THE WORLD (2.40).
This is a horse I’ve always had a high regard for and he’s been given time to freshen up after he ran flat with me at Leopardstown in January. His form before that was very solid and some decent ground won’t com amiss either.
I don’t know anything about CASSELLS ROCK (3.10) in the two-mile novice handicap hurdle but he’s got a couple of serious pointers in his favour.
He’s trained by Tony Martin and is very much at the right end of the handicap with 10st 8lb. He’s shown flashes of decent form and won on the all weather in France so I’m thinking that decent ground will benefit him.
SAILOR’S WARN (3.40) put up a great effort for me to beat Thousand Stars last time and ran well in a seven-furlong handicap at Leopardstown at the end of March.
He’s been bumped up just 1lb for the hurdle win and he was third on good ground in the County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival a few years back so he’s a big player in a race that’s very hard to call.
Whatever happens, he’ll be hard to keep out of the frame.
I’m on OUR MAN ZEBO (4.10) for Michael Hourigan in the three-mile novice handicap hurdle. He’s having his first run since last August but he was a horse that I liked and gave me the impression he was progressive, especially over this kind of trip.
He did well on faster ground when I won on him at Wexford and whatever happens on Sunday I think he’s going to be interesting through the spring and summer.
One that I’m really looking forward to in the Grade 1 Powers Gold Cup is REBEL FITZ (4.40). We’ve won six of his last seven races together and the defeat was a messy two-runner race at Cheltenham in October.
We won easily at Cork next start at the end of March and although his last two wins have been over two and a half miles I don’t see the drop back in trip as a problem. That last one was back over hurdles and just shows that he’s got gears.
He’s officially got 4lb to find on Ballycasey but he gives me the impression he’s still got a lot to offer, especially now he’s got some decent ground.
And although he’d have been good enough to go to Cheltenham or Aintree he missed them and comes here on the boil.
He has a massive chance.
It’s possible I could round off a very good day with a big showing on ROAD TO RICHES (5.10) in the two-mile one furlong novices' chase. He’s one of two that Noel Meade has in the race and I’m sure there will be plenty who are keen on his other runner, Ned Buntline.
But the only time I’ve ridden this horse was in the Grade 1 three-mile novices’ hurdle won by At Fishers Cross at Aintree last year which shows the regard in which he was held and although he lost his way a little in novices’ chases in December and January, he looked smart early on and this drop in trip and nicer ground might just suit him.
Whichever way you look at it, he’s still the highest rated in the field.