GAIN SPRING JUVENILE HURDLE (Grade 1) (4yo) (2M) SOFT
There is a cracking card of racing at Leopardstown this Saturday and there will be plenty of festival clues to be found throughout the day. The opening race, the Spring Juvenile Hurdle, is a real humdinger and this is the race the ill fated Our Conor won before going on to win at Cheltenham a couple of years ago.
Surprisingly it is a race that Willie Mullins hasn’t had much luck in recently, and his winner last year, Petite Parisienne, was his first time to take the prize since 2006. The late Dessie Hughes and Dermot Weld have won it twice each in the last 5 years, but neither yard is represented this year. No favourite has won since Unaccompanied took it at 5/2 for Weld back in 2011, but Ivanovich Gorbatov will be a warm order to take it for his powerful connections this year.
ALLBLAK DES PLACES W MULLINS/P TOWNEND
4yo son of Full Of Gold who is a half brother to the very useful French mare Queen Des Places, a Listed winner and placed multiple times at up to Grade 1 level. This gelding made a decent impression when landing the odds on his Irish debut at Fairyhouse on heavy ground back in December.
That was his 3rd run under rules after he showed promise in two soft ground hurdle races in France this time last year. However, a better jump from runner up Outspoken at the last might have seen a different result at Fairyhouse, and he will need to improve massively on that effort to take a hand here. Probably best watched for now at odds of 16/1.
BEST KEPT SECRET A O’BRIEN/M WALSH
4yo son of Duke Of Marmalade who has the sort of pedigree you would expect coming from these quarters. A half brother to the likes of Honour Code and Frontier Fighter, this gelding has yet to show form anywhere near the level of his illustrious siblings and he could only manage a single win on the flat, a handicap off just 55.
Has had just two runs over timber and showed clear promise on debut when chasing home Jazz Ranger at odds of 25/1 at Punchestown on heavy. However, he finished 5th next time at Naas, 30L behind the re-opposing Lagostovegas, and on that form he hasn’t a hope here, a fact that is reflected in his odds of 100/1.
FOOTPAD W MULLINS/D MULLINS
4yo son of Creachadoir who is a half brother to the very useful Organisateur. His dam is a half sister to a flat Group 3 winner and it is a very attractive pedigree. He had a couple of runs for Rob Collet in France last Spring before he joined the Mullins yard, and he has won 2 of his 3 starts for his new connections.
He looked impressive when taking the scalp of Lagostovegas on his Irish debut at Gowran on soft ground, and he was well beaten when sent off joint favourite for the Grade 2 at Leopardstown in which Jer’s Girl was 2nd behind Apples Jade. He had no apparent excuses that day, but he bounced back with a facile win at 1/10 back at Gowran a couple of weeks ago. Connections have reached for the hood in an attempt to eke out a bit more improvement, but he has 8L to find with Jer’s Girl and it is hard to see him turning that form around. Outside place claims at 14/1.
IVANOVICH GORBATOV A O’BRIEN/B GERAGHTY
This 4yo son of Montjeu is an exceedingly well bred animal and his half brother Hamoody was good enough to win a Group 2 as a 2yo. This fella showed he was no slouch on the level and he was good enough to win a Leopardstown 15f handicap off a mark of 95 on good to firm ground as a 3yo back in August.
He was put away after that impressive performance and reappeared at Leopardstown over Xmas in the colours of JP McManus. On heavy ground he absolutely hosed up and it was hard not to be taken with how easily he did it. He jumped and travelled extremely well, and the 3rd and 4th home that day have gone on to win maidens since. He is a leading fancy for the Triumph and it is scary to think that he will be even better when the ground improves later in the Spring. He is an extremely exciting prospect and looks a worthy favourite at odds of 8/13.
RASHAAN C KIDD/M FOGARTY
This 4yo son of Manduro is beautifully bred and his half brother Rayeni chased home Mastercraftsman in the Irish 2000 Guineas. He was sold out of Mick Halford’s yard after just one run on the flat, a poor effort over 7f at Dundalk, but as is often the case with these backward, regally bred flat bred types he just needed more time, and he has proved a different proposition over timber.
He hacked up on his hurdling debut at Roscommon on yielding ground, beating Lagostovegas by 6L, just pushed out. He showed he could handle soft ground with another facile win in a 3yo hurdle at Listowel, and then he was stepped into Graded company for the first time in a Grade 3 at Fairyhouse. He slammed his main rival, the well fancied Missy Tata, by 13L and the sky looked the limit for him after that. He was brought back to earth with a bump in Grade 2 company last time, when well behind Jer’s Girl over c&d, but he is a better horse than he showed that day and at 33/1 he could surprise a few people with a good run.
JER’S GIRL G CROMWELL/R POWER
This 4yo daughter of Jeremy has done nothing wrong on her 3 runs over timber so far, and while she has a decent pedigree it does not catch the eye the same way as it does with some of her rivals. However, she comes here with some of the best form on offer, and in receipt of weight from the boys she could put up a brave showing.
She has shown a distinct preference for getting her toe in and her only moderate run came on decent ground on the flat at Navan on her 2nd start. She was quickly switched to hurdles after that run and was backed off the boards to take a maiden at Limerick (16f soft). She justified the market support in style and she was stepped into Listed company at Aintree next time, where again got the job done with the minimum of fuss. She was only reeled in late on on her next run, a Grade 2 over c&d, when she had Rashaan and Footpad well behind. She is an uncomplicated, honest type and she looks sure to give her running at odds of 11/1.
LAGOSTOVEGAS D H KELLY/S FLANAGAN
This 4yo daughter of Footstepsinthesand managed to win a handicap off just 59 on the flat, an 11f heat on soft ground at Kilbeggan. Her half sister West Montan was a maiden hurdle winner on good ground, but she came up short when tried at Graded level and it could be a similar story with Lagostovegas.
She has shown a fairly useful level of form in defeat, and got to within 6L of Rashaan on her hurdling debut at Roscommon. She was 10L behind Ivanovich Gorbatov on her penultimate run, and her consistency was finally rewarded with a cosy maiden hurdle win last time out at Naas. She deserves to take her chance in this field but she will need to find a fair chunk of improvement if she is to earn any black type. Outside place claims at best at odds of 33/1.
LET’S DANCE W MULLINS/R WALSH
The choice of Ruby Walsh from the three Mullins entries and this 4yo daughter of Pogliote has a very attractive French pedigree. Her dam was a listed hurdle winner and was good enough to chase home future Gold Cup hero Long Run in a Grade 2 hurdle, beaten by just 1L. Let’s Dance has yet to score in just two goes over timber, but she has shown some useful form in defeat.
The French race in which she made her debut hasn’t exactly worked out well but she left that effort well behind on her next run at Leopardstown when she chased home Ivanovich Gorbatov, beaten by over 2L. She was all out that day, and the way the O’Brien horse went by her would suggest that she could well struggle to turn that form around. She looks a short enough price at odds of 4/1, and you could argue that Jer’s Girl has much stronger form in the book and yet she is double her price. Doesn’t represent value at her current odds and is best watched.
This is a cracking little contest, and on a personal level I cannot wait to see Ivanovich Gorbatov back in action. The Triumph Hurdle favourite will be looking to lay down a marker and it will be disappointing if he can’t justify his very short odds.
There is plenty of value to be found elsewhere in the field from a place perspective, and my two suggestions against the field are Rashaan and Jer’s Girl. Rashaan can be backed at 33/1 and I think his last run was too bad to be true. If he turns up at his best he could easily run in to a place. Jer’s Girl also looks overpriced at 11/1 and she arguably boasts the best form in the race. There is no way she should be almost 3 times the price of Let’s Dance and she should give her supporters a good run for their money from the front.
IVANOVICH GORBATOV 4/7
JER’S GIRL 11/1