There’s no Battleoverdoyen, that’s the key piece of the jigsaw missing in the Nathaniel Lacy & partners Solicitors 50,000 Cheltenham Bonus For Stable Staff Novice Hurdle tomorrow, which is the curtain raiser for the 2019 Dublin Festival. In his absence, 16 horses go down to post in what looks to be a competitive affair.
Leopardstown Novice Hurdle Runner by Runner Guide
T: Joseph O’Brien J: JJ Slevin
Representing the winning trainer/jockey of this race last year, the six-year-old has struggled in the finest novice company in Ireland so far, finishing behind both Aramon and Easy Game on his last three runs.
They are good markers to the novice hurdle form over the Irish Sea, and he is most likely to struggle at the highest level on that basis. However, the combination did land this contest with the rank outsider last year in Tower Bridge.
Come To Me
T: Willie Mullins J: Paul Townend
Burst onto the scene this season when landing a maiden hurdle at Cork by 17 lengths and was immediately pitched into grade one company after that.
The race at Naas turned into a disaster, finishing last of the completed runners. However, he was found to be coughing post-race and can be forgiven for that flop.
Jockey bookings suggest he is the yard’s second-string here, but he cannot be ruled out on his previous form.
T: Gordon Elliott J: Davy Russell
A second-season novice, Defi Bleu has been consistent without setting the world alight so far, and only has a maiden success to his name at the moment.
He has finished third and second in two grade two contests this season, and needs to step his form up to another level to be competitive at the highest level. Jockey bookings suggest he is the stable’s second-string too.
T: Willie Mullins J: Denis O’Regan
Had been mopping up contests in the national hunt sphere during the Irish summer with notable successes at Listowel and Galway, but has been found wanting at graded level.
His two starts to date in elite contests have yielded disappointing fifth and sixth places over two miles and three miles.
While he an unbeaten record over the intermediate trip, he looks to be a stable outsider and is best watched here.
T: Pat Fahy J: Andrew Lynch
Another second-season novice who got off the mark with a comprehensive success at Fairyhouse in December.
It was an easy seven-length success that day and his racing experience should set him in good stead for this race.
A strong chance in a competitive encounter, which is a winnable grade one.
T: Noel Meade J: Sean Flanagan
Has a record of 2/6 over hurdles, and was the sole finisher in his victory of a novice hurdle at Thurles last time out.
However, he failed to fire in graded company twice before that success, and needs to step his form up comprehensively to even place in this race. Outsider chance.
Gallant John Joe
T: Oliver McKiernan J: Barry Browne
Another rank outsider in the field who has scored twice over timber this season at Ballinrobe and Punchestown.
He ran an admirable race in a novice handicap hurdle at leopardstown over Christmas, however that form is nowhere near the level required to be competitive in a race of this nature.
T: Willie Mullins J: Keith Donoghue
The stable’s third string on jockey bookings, Getareason has been consistent without notching up too many successes this season.
After some disappointing performances in listed contests, he turned his form around when outrunning his odds to finish second and third in grade two and one contests respectively.
The winners of those races are smart performers and there is no such a calibre horse in this contest, and Getareason could be there or thereabouts come the end of the race.
T: Jessica Harrington J: Robbie Power
Has raced solely in graded company since switching to this yard, finishing second in two grade three contests, but found higher graded company far too hot to handle on his last two starts.
Has an outsider chance here and likely to struggle at this level once again.
T: Joseph O’Brien J: Mark Walsh
Carries a hefty reputation alongside his name after easily winning his bumper last year, and he got off to a fluent start over obstacles in November.
He finished fourth in the aforementioned grade two at Navan last time out, which was a weirdly-run affair, so he can be forgiven for that run and is the stable’s main hope in this race.
He will need to improve his jumping, but this could be a good opportunity to start to fulfil his lofty reputation.
The Big Dog
T: Peter Fahey J: David Mullins
Pitched into grade three company on his first start over hurdles, he finished a long-distant fourth at Cork before stepping up on his two starts since to land a maiden hurdle comfortably.
That win was at Gowran little over a week ago and it could be wise to catch him while he’s on a hot streak. Interesting contender who is very unexposed at this level.
Commander of Fleet
T: Gordon Elliott J: Jack Kennedy
Was unbeaten in three starts and was considered to be Gigginstown’s chief novice hurdler for the season before the buffers came off when disappointing in the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle.
The five-year-old looked to have been crying out for the step up in trip during that race, and the intermediate trip could well play to his strengths.
He has a long way to go before restoring his reputation, but this race could bring out the very best in him and go some way to getting his season back on track.
T: Henry De Bromhead J: Rachael Blackmore
One run under rules for this French import yielded a determined success over a highly regarded Willie Mullins inmate at Naas before Christmas.
However, the form of that race hasn’t been bolstered since and the gelding comes into the race lacking the hurdling experience normally required to be competitive at this level.
But his talent remains unexposed, and this isn’t the strongest renewal of a grade one, so he could be a relative dark horse.
T: Henry De Bromhead J: Bryan Cooper
Just like his stable companion, Malinas Jack is unbeaten in one start over obstacles to date.
The gelding was gutsy in landing an intermediate maiden hurdle at Leopardstown over Christmas, but it doesn’t look to be the strongest form on paper, so he is best watched here.
T: Willie Mullins J: Ruby Walsh
The Champion Bumper winner from last season, Relegate was rather unlucky to lose on her hurdles debut, but righted that wrong when following up on her second start.
She loves the track and has shaped like a stayer in her races, and is a proven grade one mare, so shouldn’t find the immediate step-up to this level hurdles any problem.
The six-year-old is the choice of Ruby Walsh and with the mares’ allowance in this contest, she looks dangerous to oppose.
T: Willie Mullins J: Mr Patrick Mullins
Pitched into elite mares’ company at the Cheltenham Festival last year on her debut, everything that could go wrong went wrong for Salsaretta last year. However, this season she has seemed to be a completely different horse.
An easy success at Sligo earlier in the season was backed up with an authoritative success at Limerick on boxing day.
The mare is more race-hardened now in what will be her first try at grade one level and goes into the contest as the form horse, but it is telling that Ruby has chosen to ride Relegate instead of her.