The Easter meeting at Fairyhouse continues today, Tuesday, April 18, after OUR DUKE crowned a wonderful weekend by winning the Irish Grand National in emphatic style on Easter Monday. The Punter's Eye hit the crossbar with our tip for BLESS THE WINGS, who ran gallantly to finish second for Gordon Elliott in the big one.
In the first race at 15:00 today, Elliott can recapture that winning feeling with POTTERS POINT (7/1). O'CEALLAIGH (7/4) is the favourite, setting a decent standard, while Elliott has the second and third in the betting, DELEGATE (6/1) and our choice, POTTERS POINT (7/1). DELEGATE appears to be the first string as he is ridden by Bryan Cooper, but POTTERS POINT, partnered with the in-form Jack Kennedy, can upset the perceived pecking order.
He hasn't run since October when he accounted for the re-opposing BLACK ZAMBEZI over hurdles, and now switched to fences, he could be a very talented proposition for top connections. The lengthy break could suggest problems, but it's safe to assume this one has been waited with for the onset of better ground, and it will get good to yielding today at the Meath track. Money is coming for the seven-year-old and he may overtake his stablemate DELEGATE into the position of second favourite before the off time.
O'CEALLAIGH is no slouch and crucially has chase experience. He has run six times over the larger obstacles, but crucially again, is yet to get his head in front. Admittedly, he has run into some good ones during those races, going down admirably to the likes of WOODLAND OPERA and DON'T TOUCH IT. In that most recent run behind WOODLAND OPERA, he had a host of these behind him, including PYROMANIAC, DEFINITE EARL and DELEGATE, and can be expected to hold form with those rivals. However, he is yet to meet POTTERS POINT, and the abundant potential and drying ground give the Elliott runner a huge chance of making it a winning chasing debut.
COEUR JOYEUX (2/1) should be a class above his rivals in the 15:35 maiden hurdle, where he'll wear the famous green and yellow hoops of owner JP McManus. Trained by Sandra Hughes, this six-year-old is yet to get his head in front in six starts over hurdles. However, he has placed in five of those races, and in fairness, has bumped into some classy sorts along the way. He's run into the frame behind VIGIL, DEATH DUTY and MONALEE recently. Despite becoming difficult to win with, this one is consistent and will not get an easier opportunity than this to grab a victory. 2/1 is a good price for a horse rated 126 against this field.
The 16:10 handicap hurdle over three miles is an interesting contest where all the top yards are represented. Willie Mullins saddles the favourite, BARGY LADY (13/2), while Gordon Elliott steers the likes of SIRE DU BERLAIS (7/1) and WOODS WELL (8/1) at the race. The all-conquering Jessica Harrington/Robbie Power combination is represented by NEW TO THIS TOWN (10/1), and each of these runners have their merits. BARGY LADY won by eight lengths at Navan last month, while SIRE DU BERLAIS was third behind MICK JAZZ in February, and NEW TO THIS TOWN was also third behind BATTLEFORD in December.
However, WOODS WELL (8/1) gets the nod for the Elliott/Cooper combination. 8/1 is a decent each-way price for a horse that has won twice this term and hasn't finished outside the front three in seven career starts. His run to be second behind OPEN EAGLE at Thurles in March over the same distance represents strong form. He finished ahead of SADLER'S RISK that day, and that rival holds decent three-mile form against the likes of VALSEUR LIDO and LORD SCOUNDREL. WOODS WELL seems to go well on all ground, and won comfortably on yielding ground at Thurles late last year, beating SHARPS CHOICE by four lengths. The good to yielding today should be perfect underfoot and Gordon Elliott can continue his fine season with a win in this. NEW TO THIS TOWN is the other interesting contender for a flying trainer and jockey combination, and could prove a threat on his handicap hurdle debut.
The 16:40 race on the card is a tricky handicap hurdle over two miles, and the 6/1 about the field suggests it is an open contest. It certainly is, but Willie Mullins has a particularly strong hand. He has the current favourite, CHAMBORD DU LYS (6/1), IVAN GROZNY (14/1) and the one I like, THOMAS HOBSON (16/1). Ruby Walsh has chosen him over the other Mullins options, and a chance is taken on him returning to form. He has been poor of late, and was a remote hope when 30 lengths behind SUPASUNDAE in the Coral Cup at Cheltenham, but he does have some strong older form. He was third behind JER'S GIRL in last year's Champion Novice Hurdle at the Punchestown festival, and he had the likes of JETT and DISKO behind him that day. That's the last time Ruby Walsh rode this seven-year-old, so clearly he is showing a return to something like his best at home if he has picked him out of Willie's yard. JOEY SASA, VEINARD and ICE COLD SOUL make most appeal of the others in this race.
Gordon Elliott can complete a treble with CRACKING SMART (7/4) in the last race at 18:50. He was second to MIDNIGHT ESCAPE at Naas in February, and that represents decent hurdles form, as that rival went on to finish just seven lengths behind OPEN EAGLE on his most recent outing. Racecourse experience can prove crucial in these NH flat contests, and that's why I think Gordon Elliott and Jamie Codd can get the job done in this race. ON RAGLAN ROAD is the main danger, representing Willie and Patrick Mullins on his racecourse debut. He may need the run to sharpen him up, and CRACKING SMART can take full advantage of that here.
15:00 - Potters Point - WIN - 7/1 (NAP)
15:35 - Coeur Joyeux - WIN - 2/1
16:10 - Woods Well - EW - 8/1 (NB)
16:40 - Thomas Hobson - EW - 16/1
18:50 - Cracking Smart - WIN - 7/4