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Acey Milan

Acey Milan was impressive in winning the bumper.  Always prominent, he hit the front at the 2f pole and he came away to win impressively from Woulduadamandeveit and Good Boy Bobby.  This was his fourth bumper, he has won his last three and he continues to progress.  He was strong in the market before he won impressively at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day, and he was strong in the market again here.  This is a bumper that boasts an illustrious roll of honour, having been won in the recent past by Ballyandy, Barters Hill, Definitly Red, Shutthefrontdoor, Mad Max and Al Ferof, and the fact that Anthony Honeyball’s horse is one for one at Cheltenham is an obvious asset to carry into the Champion Bumper next month.

Newbury, 10th February 2018

Verdana Blue

Verdana Blue ran much better than her finishing position in 10th place suggests in the Betfair Hurdle.  She travelled really well through her race for Davy Russell, she travelled best of all on the run into the home straight, and it looked like she was going to be involved in the finish when she travelled down to the second last on the stands side.  She just didn’t find as much as it looked like she would from that point, she just floundered on the ground in a race that was run at a strong pace from flagfall, and which developed into a dour struggle on the ground.

The ground was a worry for her going into the race, all her previous good form had been on better ground.  Indeed, she hadn’t run on ground that was softer than good to soft since she made her racecourse debut for Edmond Kent at Navan on April 2016.

Winner of a bumper in Killarney for her breeder Edmond Kent, and winner of two hurdle races last season for Nicky Henderson, the Getaway mare has been progressive this season.  Fifth in the handicap hurdle that Elgin won at Ascot in early November on her debut, a race that just continues to look better and better as the season goes on, she beat Speredek in another handicap hurdle back at Ascot later in November off a mark of 136, despite being badly hampered at the first flight.  Raised to a mark of 144 for that, she ran another big race in the old Ladbroke Hurdle back at Ascot in December to finish third behind Hunters Call, when she was held up behind a sedate enough pace.

She will be of interest now when she gets back on better ground.  Connections are talking about running her in the Champion Hurdle, which would be a massive step up in class for her.  She is not entered in the County Hurdle, and she could out-run big odds in a Champion Hurdle, but she would be of greater interest in a competitive handicap on goodish ground. She could still prove to be a fair bit better than her rating of 145.

Newbury, 10th February 2018


Isleofhopendreams ran a cracker to finish second behind Foslom Blue in the Grand National Trial.

Settled at the rear of the field by Robbie Power through the early stages of the race, Willie Mullins’ horse travelled well along the inside early on and his jumping was good.  He started to make ground along the inside down the side of the track as they embarked on their final circuit, and he continue that progress down the back straight.  Still no better than 10th as they turned at the bottom of the track with three fences to jump, he made nice ground among horses to move into fourth place behind long-time leader Baie Des Iles as they jumped the third last, and he moved into third when Red Devil Lads made a mistake at the second last fence.  He came under pressure at that point, but he responded well to that pressure.  He moved past Baie Des Iles on the run to the final fence, and he jumped up into the lead when Folsom Blue got in tight to the last, looking set to go on and score.  Folsom Blue battled back very bravely to deny him, but it was also a big run from the runner-up in a race that was run in a good time.

This was much more like it from Isleofhopendreams, after he had been pulled up in his first two races this season.  He is 11 now, as is Folsom Blue, but he is a relatively lightly-raced 11-year-old.  He has raced just 16 times under Rules in his life, and just three times over fences, so there is every chance that he can improve again over fences now.  He did well to get into Sunday’s race too, coming from the rear as he did, as is his wont.  He does seem to like it at Punchestown, he won the Pertemps qualifier on this day last year on his only previous run at Punchestown, and he goes well on soft ground. He is versatile though, he won his beginners’ chase over 2m 5f at Cork in November last season, and he was only just beaten in the Pertemps qualifier at Leopardstown’s Christmas Festival last season on yielding ground.  It may be that he remains under-rated and he will be of interest wherever he goes next.

Punchestown, 11th February 2018

Some Neck

There is a chance that Some Neck will not receive the recognition that he deserves for the performance that he put up in winning the 2m 4f beginners’ chase.  They went fast from early, Up For Review and Burgas took each other on from flagfall, and there was a feeling that Some Neck just picked up the pieces.  However, while he was undoubtedly helped by the manner in which the race was run, it was still a fine performance by Willie Mullins’ horse on his debut over fences.

Settled in third place by David Mullins from early behind the breakaway leaders, his jumping was a little deliberate through the early stages of the race, but that was understandable from a chasing debutant, and he did get faster at his fences and more fluent as the race developed. About 10l behind the leaders jumping the fourth last fence on the side of the track, he was niggled along as they approached the home turn, but he closed to within five lengths of his stable companion Up For Review as they straightened up for home, as Burgas weakened.  He got in tight to the third last fence, but he jumped the second last well, he joined the leader at the last and he stayed on best of all to win by six lengths.

It was a fine performance by the Yeats gelding on his chasing debut and on his first run in over a year.  Up For Review was also returning from a lengthy break, but he was a 148-rated hurdler and he was strong in the market.  The pair of them finished miles clear and the winning time was good, only marginally slower than the time that Our Duke (carrying 2lb less than Some Neck carried) clocked in beating Presenting Percy in a top-class renewal of the Grade 2 Red Mills Chase run over the same course and distance 35 minutes later.

Some Neck He is lightly raced.  He didn’t manage to win a bumper in five attempts, but he finished second in four of them, and he won the first of his two hurdle races, a maiden at Limerick on heavy ground over 2m 6f.  He has plenty of stamina, and he will probably improve for a step up in distance from this 2m 4f.  He should also improve for this run too, his first run over fences and his first run in over a year, and he will be of interest wherever he goes next.

Gowran Park, 17th February 2018

Chris’s Dream

Chris’s Dream was seriously impressive in winning the Grade 3 Mercedes Benz Novice Hurdle.  Sent to the front from flagfall by Mark Walsh, Henry de Bromhead’s horse just galloped on out in front and he never came back.  He went further and further clear, and was further in front at the winning line than he was at any other point in the race.

Winner of his maiden hurdle for Eugene O’Sullivan at Limerick in early December, he was sold for £175,000 at Cheltenham last December and was making his debut for Henry de Bromhead here.  This was just his third run over hurdles, and he has buckets of potential for further progression.  His trainer won this race with Monalee last season – it has also been won in the past by Cooldine and Don Poli – and there is no telling how high Chris’s Dream could go now.  Mark Walsh said afterwards that he didn’t need the ground to be as soft as it was here, that nice jumping ground would be ideal. He could be a horse for the Albert Bartlett Hurdle this season, that race is usually a big stamina test, and he is an exciting long-term prospect.

Clonmel, 20th February 2018