No racing in Britain until Wednesday at the earliest following the confirmation earlier in the week that three horses at the yard of Donald McCain had tested positive for equine influenza. Over a hundred stables were being tested on Friday morning to see if the virus had spread beyond McCain’s yard in Cholmondeley in Cheshire.
Wednesday would appear to be the very earliest day that racing will return in Britain and I would suggest next weekend is more realistic date, although BHA chief executive Nick Rust suggests it could be weeks rather than days. At this stage there appears no threat to the Cheltenham Festival next month and I feel the BHA have acted swiftly and effectively to avoid a potential crisis and should be applauded for their swift response.
The ITV4 cameras are at Naas this afternoon and City Island (12.40) can give weight and a beating to his eight rivals in the opening novice hurdle. The selection was described by trainer Martin Brassil as a “proper horse” after he won at Galway in the summer a race he later lost as a trace of arsenic was found in his urine!
The 6-y-old made no mistake at Leopardstown on Boxing Day over the minimum trip but today’s additional 3f should suit. Note the horse’s owner sponsors the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham next month and he is currently 16/1 at BetVictor for that Grade 1 contest.
Debuchet (1.35) has been bitterly disappointing over timber having finished runner up in the Champion Bumper at the 2017 Cheltenham Festival but connections look to have found an ideal opportunity returning from a five-month break.
The feature race is the listed Mares’ Chase over two miles and a return to a left-hand track will suit Gordon Elliot’s Synopsis who impressed when scoring at Cheltenham over an additional half-mile back in October. I feel we can put a line through her latest run at Huntingdon.
Marginal preference, however, is for Wille Mullins’ Pravalaguna (2.10) who jumped well when scoring over 2m 4f at Limerick on her second start over fences and receives 4lbs from Synopsis.
Joseph O’Brien’s Konitho (2.45) is currently a 40/1 shot at BetVictor for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and 25/1 for the Triumph Hurdle. Whether he is in the same class as the yard’s other leading juveniles Sir Erec (11/8 for the Triumph with BetVictor) and Fakir D’Oudairies (6s for the Supreme at BetVictor) is questionable but there was much to like about his C&D win here last month and he is taken to follow up.
O’Brien has his string in excellent form under both codes and he saddled an impressive Bumper winner (Sempo) at Thurles on Thursday. I feel his Front View (4.10) can go one better than when runner up at Gowran Park on debut when he may have bumped into a top-class animal of Willie Mullins (Blue Sari).
On Sunday and the belated seasonal reappearance of the lightly-raced Prince D’Aubrelle (2.20) who has not seen the track since May when he made an impressive debut over timber following a 950-day lay-off. The selection is a 9-y-old but clearly goes well fresh and doesn’t take much racing. The juveniles Top Moon and, stablemate of the selection, La Sorelita receive lumps of weight from the older horse and a market move for either would be worth noting.
I hope to see Impact Factor (3.50) go one better than at Thurles last time when he was no match for Cilaos Emery a smart chasing recruit of Mullins. He receives 4lbs from the previous winners in what looks a fascinating Novice Chase.
The most valuable race of the weekend is the 100,000E Grand National Trial and the each way vote goes to Solomn Grundy (4.20) who has run a couple of good races over fences since moving to Henry de Bromhead from Britain and must go close if his jumping holds up with the step up to this marathon 3m 4f trip looking sure to suit.