Connections will be hoping that Cue Card can step up from his King George VI defeat in the Grade One Ascot Chase on Saturday and stamp himself as a serious Gold Cup contender again.
It was a tame effort by his own high standards behind Thistlecrack at Kempton over Christmas and Colin Tizzard will want him to bounce back with a win this weekend and head to the Festival with all guns blazing.
Mind you, he’ll have to after Native River’s performance at Newbury last Saturday. Cue Card’s stablemate was visually very impressive and showed a turn of foot that I didn’t think he had. He enhanced his reputation as a leading Gold Cup contender with that performance, regardless of Thistlecrack’s first defeat over fences at Cheltenham last month.
Which one of the three would I ride if I wasn’t riding Djakadam? I honestly wouldn’t have a clue right now. There’s less than four weeks to go and after we see how Cue Card gets on this Saturday, they still have to be kept sound at home.
I know from experience that if you have to pick one in a big race, it’s only when you get down to their final pieces of work that a decision like that can be made.
Weekend Watch Ireland
Ballycasey is top rated in the Red Mills Chase on Saturday at Gowran Park and won around this track in the autumn. On ratings he has a live chance, but he did disappoint a little in this contest last year. The ground will be testing but there’s not a whole lot we can do about that. Gordon Elliott has three entries at the moment and it’s a competitive looking race.
Limini is entered for the Red Mills Hurdle on the same card and if she lines up, could face Jezki. This contest could determine whether Jezki tries to regain his Champion Hurdle crown or connections go down the Stayers’ Hurdle route after his come-back win at Navan where he beat Renneti.
He’s the highest-rated runner in the race and is a very, very good horse. He’ll take a lot of beating on Saturday whoever lines up against him.
Renneti swerved the Betfair Hurdle last weekend and could line up against Sutton Place in the Boyne Hurdle at Navan on Sunday. He’s a little ‘wrong’ at the weights with Gordon Elliott’s lightly-raced runner, who was impressive on his Naas reappearance and looks a horse with a bright future.
I’ve just the two rides at Clonmel on Thursday where the ground will be very testing.
Kate Appleby Shoes ran well when second to Barra at Fairyhouse last month over Thursday’s distance of 2m 2f. It was 13 lengths back to the third that day Just Janice and a similar run in Thursday’s mares maiden hurdle 2.20pm could be good enough.
Chambord Du Lys looked like winning the last day over 2m 4f before a mistake at the last nearly shot me out over her ears. She looks a winner without a penalty and can hopefully put that right in the following maiden hurdle at 2.50pm.
Leopardstown didn’t go to plan last Sunday where Mega Fortune really benefited from the soft ground and application of cheekpieces to beat my mount Bapaume.
I’m hoping better ground at the Festival will bring about the improvement Bapaume needs to turn the tables on that rival if both line up in the Triumph Hurdle at the Festival.
Saturnas was beaten an awfully long way from home and it was bitterly disappointing. It’s hard to believe that run was a true reflection of his ability as it was the softest ground he ever encountered. At least the stable had the 1-2 with Bacardys just denying Bunk Off Early in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle.
Bacardys stayed on very strongly to win, while Bunk Off Early travelled so well to the last flight that better ground and a drop back in trip should suit him in the future.
I’d no luck either with Bellshill who made a bad mistake at the first in the Novices Chase and never really recovered after that.
While it was a tired fall at the last, I was always confident he was going to get up. He just needed that little bit of time to get back on his feet.
He ran below par here 12 months ago too but bounced back from that to win at Punchestown later in the spring. Hopefully, he can do the same again.
The Irish Gold Cup was a tactical affair and it played into the hands of Sizing John, the quickest horse in the race. He was tight enough at the last fence but still quickened well to beat Don Poli and Empire of Dirt and ran to the line strongly.
A strong pace at Cheltenham should help him to settle better as he was a bit keen early on. Connections are entitled to feel they’ve a Gold Cup contender on their hands.
Incidentally, More of That was running a big race until he tipped up at the final fence. I had a quick scan at the Aintree Grand National weights that were released on Tuesday and he looks an interesting contender at this early stage.
He jumped the last in a line with the principals in the Irish Gold Cup at level weights and was unlucky to come down. He’s been allocated 11st 1lb for Aintree and while he could go up a couple of pounds, he’ll still bet getting 3, 5 & 6lbs from Empire of Dirt, Don Poli and Carlingford Lough if they all show up.