On Sunday, all roads should lead to Leopardstown where it’s the Grade 1 Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup that occupies centre stage. It should hopefully develop into one of the races for the season and it could pay to take a chance with the relatively unexposed Mister Top Notch.
An initial runner in the race for Askeaton-based handler Davy Fitzgerald, Mister Top Notch has really blossomed this season, although it must be divulged that he did capture the Grade 1 Dr P.J. Moriarty Novice Chase over two miles five furlongs at this same fixture last year. Quite remarkably, Mister Top Notch has already won over hurdles this year as he effortlessly took a two-and-a-quarter mile conditions hurdle at Cork with regular partner Conor O’Dwyer on January 5th.
The nine-year-old then won over this same course and three-mile distance when valiantly conceding all of 10 lbs to King Johns Castle in the Pierse Leopardstown Handicap Chase on January 13th. Whilst Mister Top Notch will need to progress again to be competitive in this company, the likelihood is that he will do just that and he’s confidently expected to outpoint Mossbank on this occasion. Michael Hourigan’s Mossbank posted a stellar performance on his most recent start when beaten just four lengths into second spot by none other than Denman in the Grade 1 Lexus Chase at Leopardstown over the Christmas period.
Captain Cee Bee holds outstanding credentials in the Grade 1 Deloitte Novice Hurdle. Facile winner of a one mile three furlong Killarney maiden in the summer, Captain Cee Bee has really impressed this winter by effortlessly obliging on his two starts over timber. Captain Cee Bee seems a horse with genuine Cheltenham festival aspirations and Edward Harty’s seven-year-old looks likely to contain Forpadydeplasterer here.
Willie Mullins’ hugely-exciting mare J’y Vole looks set to continue her winning streak in the Grade 1 Dr P. J. Moriarty Novice Chase. A French import, J’y Vole has already won both her starts over fences for Mullins. She commenced by making all of the running to win a two and a half miles mares’ beginners chase at Cork in early January and she similarly was never headed when again coming home by a distance in a novice chase over the same distance at Gowran Park on ‘Thyestes’ day, January 24th. J’y Vole looks set to excel from Thyne Again on this occasion.
Perhaps Sabrina Harty’s Won In The Dark can supplement his facile success in the Dennys Juvenile Hurdle at this same course on December 26th by returning to the coveted number one slot from Personal Column in the opening Grade 2 betchronicle.com Spring Juvenile Hurdle.
Paul Pierce’s Here Comes Sally can build upon her excellent second-placed effort at the most recent meeting here on January 27th by seeing off Eritrea in the Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund Mares Handicap Hurdle whilst normal frontrunner The Man From Slatt and Winning Dream are a likely pair in the Raymond Smith Memorial Hunters Chase.
Denmania at Newbury on Saturday
This is so as Denman, current second favourite for the Tote Cheltenham Gold Cup, will be re-united with Sam Thomas in the Grade 2 Aon Chase at the popular Berkshire course.
Denman, of course, is unbeaten on his two starts to date this season for the gigantic son of Presenting routed the opposition on his return to the fray with Thomas when disposing of Dream Alliance by an unchallenged 11 lengths in the coveted Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup Chase at this same course on December 1st.
Denman, it must be said, had to work a little harder when beating Mossbank by four lengths in the Grade 1 Lexus Chase at Leopardstown under Ruby Walsh on December 28th. Denman however is a class act and it will come as a major surprise if he fails to continue on his merry way by dismissing last year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup third Turpin Green.
There’s a top-class support card at Newbury and as always competition is bound to be intense in the Grade 3 totesport Trophy Hurdle.
Willie Mullins has yet to win this ultra-prestigious contest, that’s still referred to as the ‘Schweppes’ by many. However in Jayo, the Closutton handler appears to have a five-year-old with genuine each-way aspirations. On his most recent start, Jayo was never nearer when staying on for fifth spot behind McBarker in the coveted Pierse Hurdle at Leopardstown last month. Jayo appears to have an ideal racing weight in 10-10 and the French-bred is recommended to triumph from Fleet Street.
Voy Por Ustedes, last season’s Queen Mother Champion Chase winner, can continue trainer Alan King’s excellent run by disposing of L’Antartique in the Grade 2 totepool Game Spirit Chase. L’Antartique’s handler Ferdy Murphy should enjoy better fortune by sending out the hat-trick seeking Master Builder to oblige from Ballyshan in the totescoop6 Handicap Hurdle.
The Channel 4 cameras will additionally be screening two races from Warwick.
Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Mahogany Blaze can attain due reward for his consistency by showing a clean pair of heels to Moon Over Miami in the Grade 2 Systems By Deisign Kingmaker Novices’ Chase. Character Building, a fine third behind Denman in the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup at Newbury a little over two months ago, can utilize his comparatively lenient mark in the SBD Commercial Interiors Handicap Chase by eclipsing Mister McGoldrick.
At the other Irish fixture over the weekend, Naas on Saturday, Edward O’Grady’s homebred Clopf cannot be realistically opposed in the BBA Ireland Limited Opera Hat Novice Chase.
This Dr Massini-sired gelding was a more than useful hurdler last season evidenced by his victory in the Grade 1 vcbet.com Champion Novice Hurdle at the Punchestown festival in April. The seven-year-old made a victorious start to his steeplechase career by getting the better of another former Grade 1 winning hurdler in Quatre Heures in a two mile one furlong contest at Navan on January 26th. Clopf can make it two wins from as many starts over the larger obstacles by getting the better of Cogans Lake.
Hairy Molly will be the main focus of attention in the Property Partners Brady Beginners Chase. This Joe Crowley-trained gelding did after all win the 2006 renewal of the Cheltenham festival bumper and he hasn’t been seen since finishing a remote eleventh in the Grade 1 Brit Insurance Novice Hurdle on a return visit to the Cotswolds last March. Once a class act, however always a class act and Hairy Molly is taken to get off the mark at the first time of asking over fences here and in all probability he should have most to fear from Arrive Sir Clive.
Gonebeyondrecall can conclude the afternoon on a profitable note for punters by returning to the coveted number one slot in the Thoroughbred County Naas (Pro/Am) INH Flat Race.
Noel Glynn’s Gonebeyondrecall destroyed the opposition by winning the coveted Goffs Land Rover bumper at last year’s Punchestown festival. Seen just once since then when coming home a poor third in a two mile the furlong Naas novice hurdle in October, Gonebeyondrecall seems set to regain the winning thread here by accounting for Zaarito.
Francis Flood’s Pom Flyer can make amends for finishing second no less than three times in the recent past by claiming the scalp of Conem in the Bank Of Ireland Handicap Chase whilst Dashing George can continue trainer Eric McNamara’s terrific run by upstaging Keep Me in the Naas Supporters Handicap Hurdle.