Barry Geraghty's blog

Barry's quartet of rides at Aintree on Saturday are headed by Cheltenham Festival hero Minella Rocco - he then has five on a top-class card at Fairyhouse on Sunday, including Anibale Fly and Landofhopeandglory.

ANIBALE FLY OUT TO STEP UP IN THE DRINMORE

It is Hatton’s Grace Hurdle day at Fairyhouse on Sunday. Fairyhouse is my local track and this is always a great day of top-class racing with three Grade 1 contests.

I am looking forward to riding ANIBALE FLY (2.40) again in the Grade 1 Bar One Racing Drinmore Chase. He progressed nicely over hurdles last season, and he rounded off his campaign by winning a big handicap hurdle at the Punchestown Festival.

Mark rode him on his chasing debut at Navan, where he was very good in winning a good beginners’ chase, beating two talented chasing prospects in Martello Tower and Gurteen into second and third places, with the three of them clear.

Anibale Fly only got home by three parts of a length in the end, but he probably had a little more in hand than that.

That was over an extended two miles, and the Drinmore is obviously over two and half, but he stayed two and a half well over hurdles last season, that Punchestown handicap hurdle was over two and a half, so the distance shouldn’t be an issue for him.

It is a hot race, as the Drinmore always is. Diamond King, last season’s Coral Cup winner, jumped well when he won his beginners’ chase at Galway, while A Toi Phil has won his two chases and Alpha Des Obeaux has won his last two.

It is a cracking renewal of a race that has been won by some top-class novice chasers in the past.

I ride IVANOVICH GORBATOV (1.40) in the Grade 1 Bar One Racing Hatton’s Grace Hurdle itself. He was disappointing on his debut this season at Naas, but he showed a small return to form in the Morgiana Hurdle last time.

He didn’t run badly in finishing third behind Nichols Canyon and Jer’s Girl.

Of course, he is going to have to step up on that again if he is going to get close to the mares Vroum Vroum Mag and Apple’s Jade, but he deserves his place in the race and the better ground will be a big help to him.

I start the day off on LANDOFHOPEANDGLORY (12.40) in the Grade 3 Bar One Racing Juvenile Hurdle

He was a very good stayer on the flat, he finished fourth in the Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot and he finished second in the Group 2 Curragh Cup when he was with Aidan O’Brien, both times behind his stable companion Sword Fighter. 

He is two for two now over hurdles for Joseph. He won his maiden easily over Sunday’s course and distance in early November, and he was again impressive in following up at Punchestown two weeks later.

He is favourite for the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival and he sets the standard here.

I am also looking forward to riding CAMPEADOR (2.10) again in the big two-mile Bar One Racing Handicap Hurdle.

He hasn’t run since he fell at the final flight when in contention for the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

We would have been involved in the finish of the Fred Winter had we jumped the last well, but he might have been just coming towards the end of his run. I’m not sure how strong he would have been up the hill.

That said, it was a good race, and it is working out well, with the winner Diego Du Charmil winning at Chepstow on his debut this season.

It will be interesting to see how Campeador gets on now in his first run in open company in a handicap.

I have picked up the ride on LABAIK (1.10) the Grade 1 Bar One Racing Royal Bond Novice Hurdle, and it is a good ride to pick up. 

He had his issues with the stalls on the flat, he refused to race on his final run in Britain and he refused to race again at Listowel on his first run for Gordon, but he has had no issues since he had gone over hurdles. 

He sprang a bit of a surprise in winning easily on his debut over hurdles at Punchestown in October, and he finished off his race well last time at Navan to win the Grade 3 For Auction Novice Hurdle.

This is obviously another step up in class, but he deserves a shot at a Grade 1 prize.


MINELLA ROCCO READY FOR AINTREE TEST

I am at Aintree on Saturday, where I ride MINELLA ROCCO (2.40) in the listed three-mile Betfred Lotto '100k Cash Giveaway' Chase

He is a lovely staying chaser, he won the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March – when he had last Saturday’s Hennessy winner Native River behind him in second place – and he started off this season well, finishing third in the three-and-a-half-mile handicap chase at Cheltenham’s Open Meeting in November.

He just got a bit outpaced when they quickened that day before staying on, but there was a lot to like about the way that he finished off his race. He was only beaten a total of a length and a half.

There is a slight worry that three miles around Aintree on decent ground might be a bit sharp for him, but he should be sharper for his seasonal debut, he should come on for it. 

He has a big chance on ratings, he only has 2lb to find with Many Clouds and he is ahead of everything else, given the conditions of the race. I hope that he can run well.
 
I start the day off on LITTERALE CI (12.00) in the Listed Betfred TV Fillies' Juvenile Hurdle.

She won over a mile and six furlongs on the flat in France, and she didn’t shape badly on her debut in Britain, when she finished second in a juvenile hurdle at Exeter two weeks ago.

Litterale CI was just a little keen that day, which was understandable, it was her first run since June. Hopefully she will settle better here, hopefully she will run a good race.

I am on CERNUNNOS (12.30) again in the two-and-a-half-mile Betfred Watch Sky Sports In Our Shops Handicap Chase, the horse off whom I broke my arm when we fell at the last fence in the Summer Plate at Market Rasen in July. 

I haven’t ridden him since, but he didn’t run badly at Wincanton last time, he finished third (of three finishers, but he wasn’t beaten far) behind Gentleman Jon, who won the Badger Ales Trophy off a 4lb higher mark on his next run. 

Cernunnos races here off a 3lb lower mark, and that gives him a chance. Hopefully I will have better luck on him this time than I had last time.

I ride MINOTAUR (1.00) in the Betfred 'happy 50th John Mckenna' Novices' Hurdle. I don’t know very much about him, but he won a listed race over a mile and a half in France in September on his last run on the flat, so he looks like a classy recruit. 

Hopefully he can take to his hurdles because, if he does, he has lots of potential.