At The Races

Barry Geraghty's blog

Get Barry's verdict on his rides on Hennessy Gold Cup day at Newbury on Saturday and on Hatton's Grace Hurdle day at Fairyhouse on Sunday in his exclusive ATR blog.

The Hennessy Gold Cup is a great race, it is one of the top staying handicap chases in the calendar, but it is wide open this year, you could make a case for most of the runners. 

It is a pity for the race that Coneygree is not running, it would have been good to have had the Cheltenham Gold Cup winner in the race. However, for me, the fact that he has been taken out of the race has meant that the weights have gone up by 9lb, which means that IF IN DOUBT (3.00) has 10st 12lb to carry instead of 10st 3lb, and that is a weight at which I can ride comfortably.

Very soft ground would be a bit of a worry for If In Doubt. He does have form on soft ground, he was second behind Saphir Du Rheu in a Lanzarote Hurdle on soft ground and he was only narrowly beaten by his stable companion Fingal Bay in a Pertemps Qualifier at Exeter on heavy ground. However, his two best runs over fences were in the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster last January and in the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March, and both of those races were run on ground just on the easy side of good.

If In Doubt should be able to handle the ground though, and I am hopeful that he can run a big race. He won that Donny race well despite the fact that he met a couple of his fences wrong. He was good when he met them right though, and he won very easily despite not jumping great. 

He got 10lb for that, but that was fair, and he ran a good race in the RSA Chase in March, staying on well up the run-in.

He is a second-season chaser, he is the type of unexposed staying chaser that can do very well in the Hennessy. The vibes about him are positive, and hopefully I can get him into a nice rhythm early on. I have been lucky enough to win two of the last three Hennessy Gold Cups, on Bobs Worth - who lines up again on Saturday - and Triolo D’Alene, and I would love to win another.

I partner FULL SHIFT (12.45) in the Novices' Limited Handicap Chase. This will be his first run since he ran well in a good handicap hurdle at the Punchestown Festival in May, and it will be his first run over fences, but I schooled him on Friday morning and he schooled well.   

He was a progressive novice hurdler two seasons ago, and he was sent off as favourite for Don Poli’s Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle at the 2014 Cheltenham Festival. Full Shift has talent, he has form on soft ground, and he gets to race here off a mark of 130, which is 5lb lower than the mark off which he raced over hurdles at Cheltenham in March. I hope that he can run well.

EASTLAKE (3.35) goes in the last, the two-mile bet365 Handicap Chase. We thought that he would run well on his seasonal return in Boondooma’s race at Cheltenham in October, but he didn’t feel right and I pulled him up early. He was diagnosed with a fibrillating heart. 

He appears to be fine now, Jonjo is happy with him, but you just never know how they are going to come back after something like that. I am hoping for a good run, he is capable of winning a good race like this off his mark of 147, but mainly I am just hoping that Eastlake can put his heart scare behind him and run well. 

It is a cracking day’s racing at Fairyhouse on Sunday, Hatton’s Grace Hurdle day, with three Grade 1 races and a strong supporting card.

I am looking forward to riding FREE EXPRESSION (2.40) in the Bar One Racing Drinmore Chase. He had the option of running in a beginners’ chase instead, but he is a horse with lots of potential as a chaser, and he deserves to take his chance in the Drinmore.

Free Expression won his only point-to-point and his only bumper, and he progressed nicely last season as a novice hurdler, winning his maiden and a Grade 2 race at Navan before finishing a close-up third behind McKinley and Tell Us More in the Grade 1 Lawlor's Hotel Novice Hurdle at Naas in January.

Gordon left him off after that with the intention of bringing him back this season. He was a good hurdler but he was always going to be a chaser, and he ran well on his chasing debut to finish a close second to Outlander at Punchestown two weeks ago. He was a little unlucky that day, he was short of room around the home turn, but he kept on well. He should come on for that.

It is a very good race, as the Drinmore always is. Free Expression’s stable companion No More Heroes was a high-class staying novice hurdler last season and he looks like an exciting staying novice chaser. Outlander re-opposes and Monksland is a top-class hurdler who looked good in winning his beginners’ chase on his first attempt at Gowran Park last Saturday. It should be really good race.

It is going to be difficult for THOMAS EDISON (1.40) to beat Arctic Fire in the Bar One Racing Hatton’s Grace Hurdle, but he may not have much to find with the rest of them, and he deserves to run in the race. 

He was running a big race in the Galway Hurdle when he fell at the last. We may not have beaten his stable companion Quick Jack, but we might have run him very close. That is strong form, Quick Jack finished third in the Cesarewitch at Newmarket and the runner-up Max Dynamite won the Lonsdale Cup next time out before going to Australia and finishing second in the Melbourne Cup!

Thomas Edison was well beaten last time in the Morgiana Hurdle, but he is actually the second highest rated horse in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle on official ratings. He wouldn't want the ground to be too soft, but I hope that he can run better than his odds suggest.

I ride HARVEY LOGAN (2.10) in the two-and-a-half-mile Underwriting Exchange Handicap Hurdle. It is a wide-open race, and we have to give weight to everything, but he is not a bad horse on his day and he does have scope to progress beyond his handicap mark.

Harvey Logan was well beaten on his debut this season at Punchestown, but that was his first run in almost a year, and he should step forward from it. He won twice at this time last year, and this two-and-a-half-mile trip suits him well.