Horses To Follow » Fionnegas


Fionnegas ran a cracker to finish second to Dunguib in the Deloitte Hurdle at Leopardstown on Sunday. Although the winner won easily, Willie Mullins’s horse was only beaten two and a half lengths, and the time was excellent, faster than Racing Post par on the day and over seven seconds faster than the mares’ handicap hurdle that was run over the same course and distance a half an hour earlier, when they didn’t hang around either. Settled behind the leaders, Fionnegas took it up after the second last and kicked for home. All the while Brian O’Connell sat motionless in behind on Dunguib, and he picked Fionnegas up easily on the run-in, but the grey horse stuck to his task well and went down by just over two lengths, with a 10-length gap back to Some Present in third.

Willie Mullins has always thought a fair bit of Fionnegas. Winner of both of his bumpers and his maiden hurdle last spring, he got off the mark at the first time of asking this season when he made all to win a two-and-a-half-mile novices’ hurdle at Clonmel in November. Some people were a little disappointed that he could only finish third behind Hollo Ladies and Saludos in the Future Champions’ Hurdle at Leopardstown over Christmas, but that was over two miles and the ground was unseasonably good, so it is unlikely that it represented a sufficient test of stamina. He was better stepped up to two and a quarter miles on Sunday, and he should be even better stepped up again in trip next. The Neptune Hurdle or the Albert Bartlett Hurdle are surely his only options at Cheltenham (he is in all three novice hurdles), and he will be of major interest in whichever race he lines up. Willie Mullins has a wealth of talent among the novice hurdling ranks, so it will be interesting to see how he plays them during Cheltenham week.

7th February 2010