Cheltenham Festival Preview: Day Four

Well to put it simply, Day 3 was absolutely brutal. It was a day to forget for many I’m sure – so If you did manage to have a good day on Thursday then well done! There’s no time to sulk when it comes to the Cheltenham Festival however, and we end the week with some strong Ante-Post positions that will hopefully pay off. Fingers crossed for a change in fortunes on Day 4!
Best of luck if you’re following, and be sure to follow me on Twitter @JakePriceRacing for live updates throughout the day. If you’ve enjoyed these write ups throughout the week, then be sure to stick around for lots of detailed write ups throughout the season! I also have a Telegram page if would like to receive notifications for all of my selections.

13:20 – Triumph Hurdle (Grade 1) – 2m1f

The Horse who I have had one eye on the Triumph Hurdle for since October is Quilixios, and he has done nothing to put me off his chances. Unlike Tritonic and Zanahiyr who came from the Flat, Quilixios has been jumping from a very young age having started his career with Francois Nicolle in France – for whom he won a Compiegne Juvenile Hurdle by 12 lengths last March. The fact that this Horse won his first Hurdle race over a year ago speaks volumes about the length of time he has been Jumping, and it also means that he isn’t even a Novice Hurdler – so he only gets to run in the Triumph Hurdle as it is a Conditions race for Horses aged four. Nevertheless, he started his career in Ireland with a ruthless success in a 3yo Maiden Hurdle at Punchestown – jumping fantastically and putting 13 lengths between himself and the rest. He made much the same impression on his next start at Down Royal just 18 days later, where this time in all honesty he faced a bunch of trees – but he could do no more than what he did, jumping perfectly once again to score by an eased down 20 lengths. It would end up being a long wait until we saw Quilixios again after that run however, as he was due to turn up in that aforementioned Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow – but a travel ban between Britain and Ireland owing to COVID-19 wasn’t lifted in time for him to travel across, so he had to wait a little longer until the Grade 1 Spring Juvenile Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival.

Throughout the day Quilixios was pretty easy to back in the market, but close to the off-time money started to pile in on him to make a winning return – and he duly did just that. Once again putting in an exemplary round of jumping, Quilixios effortlessly breezed past Saint Sam (139) rounding the home bend, and after pinging the last he just maintained a 5.5 length lead up the run in to score nicely. I think there is plenty of reason to believe that he will come on massively for that run considering the length of time between races however, and I don’t think the quicker ground at Cheltenham will inconvenience him at all – as his flawless jumping will always ensure that he is gaining on his rivals. One obvious concern Quilixios will need to answer now is how the stable change from Gordon Elliott to Henry de Bromhead will affect him – and by the time we get to the Friday we will probably have a good idea – but the fact that Henry uses the same feed and hay as they do at Cullentra House would suggest that it shouldn’t pose too many issues. Straight after his win at the Dublin Racing Festival connections were saying that there was no doubt in their mind that Zanahiyr is the better Horse of the pair, but I really think the 2m1f trip at a track like Cheltenham will play to his strengths – and as much as you do need some speed to win a Triumph (which he certainly isn’t short of!), you equally need the ability to jump and travel as strongly as Quilixios does. Even if Zanahiyr does just have that better turn of foot after the last, I’d expect Quilixios to be hitting the frame here at the very least.

Advised Ante-Post

13:55 – County Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) – 2m1f

I don’t normally give any shout outs to individual bookmakers, but Sky Bet have to be commended for paying 8 places here. If you can get on with them, then you should certainly make the most of their offer!

One Horse who is perfect with those enhanced place terms in mind is Ciel De Neige, who has shaped with a lot of promise throughout his career, without yet having his big day in the sun. This 6yo made his debut for Willie Mullins at the 2019 Cheltenham Festival, where he finished a very credible 3rd in the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle behind Band Of Outlaws (149) and Coko Beach (141), and last season he once more ran well in some big Handicaps – finishing 4th behind Janidil (149) in a Grade A Handicap at Fairyhouse in December 2019, before then going on to run a belter in the 2020 Grade 3 Betfair Hurdle at Newbury – where he was beaten 0.75 lengths into 2nd by Pic D’Orhy (154) off a mark of 135. Ciel De Neige then ran in this race last season off a mark of 139, but for some reason he really weakened out of contention.

Back stronger this season however, Ciel De Neige once again has enjoyed a similar campaign – running a nice race in that Grade A Handicap Hurdle back at Fairyhouse, finishing 5th behind Advanced Virgo (131), Cayd Boy (Now 6lbs higher off 149) and Drop The Anchor (Now 17lbs higher off 146). Like over Christmas in 2019, Ciel De Neige then went back to the same inconspicuous 2m Maiden Hurdle at Limerick, where this time he got the job done to finally get his head in front and score by 2.25 lengths. Rather than going back to Newbury for the Betfair Hurdle however, connections opted for the Grade B Ladbrokes Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival last month – a race which is much closer to home! Running quite an eye-catching race however, Ciel Du Neige was close up on the inner before the 2nd last, but he was just short of room on the running rail and kept on at the once pace thereafter for 9th place. Heading back to the County Hurdle off a mark just 1lb higher than 12 months ago does make some appeal now he is a year older however, especially as connections have opted to use first-time cheek-pieces, which should help him to concentrate and hopefully see out his race a lot better. I think the quicker ground will suit him this year too, as his best performance to date came on Good ground at Newbury. With Willie Mullins having won 4 of the last 10 County Hurdles and Jonjo O’Neill Jr making for an interesting Jockey booking, Ciel De Niege should be capable of running a big race now better off at the weights with those aforementioned JP McManus Horses.

8 Places

I was having a quick check through the markets as I do every evening last night just to make sure I hadn’t missed anything at a price, and I was quite shocked when I saw Saint D’oroux as big as 33/1. This Denise Foster 5yo ran a grand race in the Grade 3 Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival 12 months ago off a mark of 133, cruising up on the bridle under Daryl Jacob and jumping the last upsides and staying on for third place up the Hill. That certainly wasn’t a bad race with Aramax (142) beating Night Edition (135), and Dan Skelton’s recent Imperial Cup winner Langer Dan (140) narrowly behind in 6th place gives the form another strong look.

Connections tried to coax a win out of him over the Summer, but he disappointed off a mark of 131 in an open Handicap at Bellewstown before then running much better when 3rd in a Novice Hurdle at Galway wearing first time cheek-pieces. Presumably this was all a prep to run in the Grade B 4yo only Handicap Hurdle at Listowel in September, but the rattling fast ground meant he was declared a Non-Runner. Running over 2m4f in a Novice Hurdle at the same track 5 days later however, Saint D’oroux just didn’t stay the trip – so you can put a line through that performance. The form of Saint D’oroux starts to get really interesting following on from an 85 day break however, as he returned to action at Thurles in December to finish 2nd in a 2m Handicap Hurdle off a mark of 128 – where he stayed on strongly to the line to only be beaten 0.75 lengths by West Cork Wildway (132). That effort then set him up perfectly for a tilt at the Grade B Ladbrokes Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival last month, where again he ran a really nice race – this time coming through the pack to jump the last in a share of the lead, before just being hampered slightly in the run in and finishing 3rd. That form line features heavily in the County Hurdle market, with the winner Drop The Anchor (146), the 2nd Champagne Gold (144), and the 5th Eclair De Beaufeu (139) all considerably shorter in the betting. When you look at the revised weights however, Saint D’oroux will be 10lbs better off with Drop The Anchor, 5lbs better off with Champagne Gold, and 2lbs better off with stablemate Eclair De Beaufeu. Considering Saint D’oroux also has Cheltenham Festival form to his name, if he enjoys the Good-to-Soft ground (which I think he will) then he is weighted to run a big race – and with 8 Places on offer he looks worth a bet. 5yos have a decent record in the County Hurdle too, winning 4 of the last 10 renewals.

8 Places, BOG (added 10:30am)

14:30 – Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) – 3m

Fakiera ran well in two Bumpers as a younger Horse, the first of which when finishing 4th behind Uhtred in a valuable Sales race at Fairyhouse. He then used another Bumper in December 2019 as a bit of a pipe-opener, before embarking on his Hurdles career in February last year. His first effort over obstacles came over 2m at Naas, where he finished a good 2nd behind Entoucas (135) – a Horse who has subsequently gone on to place in a Listed Novice Hurdle before developing into a 139 Chaser this season. Another 2nd would then follow over 2m2f at Leopardstown on his next start in March, where this time he was only beaten 1.25 lengths by Jon Snow (146) – a rival who went on to win twice in impressive style after stepping up in trip. Although at the time connections were probably a little disappointed with Fakiera, the form of that Leopardstown Maiden Hurdle is working out really nicely this season; with the 3rd placed Roseys Hollow (136) recently landing the Grade 3 Solerina Mares Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse, the 4th placed Joshua Webb (125) winning a Maiden Hurdle, the 5th placed Dinny Lacey developing into a 133 Chaser, and even the 6th placed Jack Hackett has developed into a 134 Chaser. A very common theme with that race then is that the Horses who ran in it have just needed that extra year to develop, and Fakiera is no different.

Having been sent off 5/6 favourite for a 2m Opportunity Maiden Hurdle at Thurles when lockdown began and Ireland tried to race on behind closed doors 20 days later, Fakiera was definitely being called some names when beaten by Politesse (124) – and in fairness he was in danger of becoming one of those Maiden Hurdlers who just continue to hit the frame without getting their head in-front. The extended Summer break through lockdown was probably exactly what he needed however, as he returned to action in November and finally got off the mark – staying on strongly under Jack Kennedy and getting up in the shadows of the post despite not entirely looking like he was putting in maximum effort. Nevertheless, Fakiera still put in a great performance that day to beat Gabynako (138) – a Horse who’s since won a Maiden of his own and placed in Grade 1 company.

Stepping up in trip would really see the start of a transformed Fakiera however, and his next start came in the 2m4f Grade 3 Monksfield Novice Hurdle at Navan in November. In a race which Gordon Elliott has farmed in recent seasons with the likes of Fury Road, Samcro, and Death Duty, Fakiera added his name to the honours list with a proper stayers effort – getting outpaced after the third-last flight, before then really motoring after the last to pick them all up down the outside of the field. That thrilling half-length victory over Fire Attack was really the first time that Fakiera showed a thorough will to win, and it was quite an impressive performance considering he had the likes of Champagne Gold (139) and subsequent Grade 2 winner Farouk D’alene (140) in behind.

Fakiera took his chance in the 2m4f Grade 2 Novice Hurdle at Navan a month later on his next start, but this is a race where Gordon doesn’t have the best record historically. Once again getting outpaced coming towards the third-last however, Fakiera ran a pretty much identical race to stay on strongly down the outside of the field after the last – but the winner had already sailed on this occasion, with Ashdale Bob scoring in good style. Fakiera still came through for 2nd (only beaten 6 lengths) when once again beating Gabynako (138) mind – but this time by a much more comfortable 0.75 lengths over the longer trip.

Indeed, an increase in distance has clearly been key to unlocking the Fakiera enigma, and so the 2m6f Grade 1 Novice Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival was a very logical next step for him. A nice 50-day break must be seen as a positive with him considering he skipped out all those races ran in brutal ground over the Christmas/January period, but connections interestingly decided to try first-time cheek-pieces for that Leopardstown race. Settling into the race lovely, Fakiera did his usual thing of being outpaced before staying on eye-catchingly; this time really eating up the ground down the home straight when coming through for 4th place, and eventually only being beaten 7 lengths. The 2021 renewal of the Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors Novice Hurdle really does look like a strong one considering it was won by Willie Mullins’ Ballymore 2nd Gaillard Du Mesnil (150), and whilst the 2nd Gentlemansgame (143) won’t be making the trip across the Irish sea this year, he is certainly a young Horse with huge potential. In terms of the Albert Bartlett then it is the 3rd and 4th place Horses which matter most, with Stattler (143) and Fakiera (141) both shaping as if the step up to 3m would be key to finding further improvement.

Whilst Fakiera was beaten 2 lengths by that aforementioned Willie Mullins Horse, it is clear to see that stepping up to 3m will suit him perfectly, as he wasn’t for stopping in the closing stages. An obvious concern in regard to his Cheltenham chances would be trying to stop him losing too much ground before the turbos kick in, but the New Course at Cheltenham should be perfect considering it gives him a much longer home straight to run up, and of course that infamous Hill will have others tiring as he starts to get going. If Fakiera doesn’t give himself too much to do at Cheltenham then there is every chance he can reverse that form with Stattler, albeit that Horse is another who is likely to find improvement over the longer trip. Whether or not Fakiera can mow down the whole field like he did in the Monksfield however, I’d very much expect him to be hitting the frame considering how strongly he will be staying on towards the finish.

Advised Ante-Post

Upon reflection after originally putting up Fakiera, I couldn’t help but have a second bet in the Albert Bartlett on Stattler considering his strong form – which obviously ties in closely with my main selection Fakiera.

Last season Stattler hacked up on his racecourse debut in a 2m Bumper at Fairyhouse, before he then finished 3rd behind two nice Gigginstown Horses in Farouk D’alene and Fire Attack in a similar event at Naas. On his final Bumper start at Limerick in March he was perhaps a little disappointing when beaten at 8/11f – but in fairness he was trying to give a stone at the weights to On Eagles Wings, who has proven himself to be a useful type by winning another Bumper and a Maiden Hurdle.

2m Bumpers were never going to be Stattler’s cup of tea considering he’s a big Stowaway gelding out of an Old Vic Mare mind, and he’s taken every step up in trip into his stride this season. Starting off in a 2m3f Maiden Hurdle at Naas in November, Stattler jumped well for the main but was just tapped for toe up the home straight – briefly dropping off the screen after the last before really powering on again inside the closing stages to only be beaten 2.5 lengths into 3rd. The Winner that day Vanillier (137) has since proven himself to be a nice animal by finishing runner-up in a Grade 2 on his next start, and considering a lot of Willie’s Horses were needing their first runs back in November, Stattler put in a very pleasing performance over a trip just a touch too sharp.

Stepped up to 2m4f for a Maiden Hurdle at Leopardstown over Christmas however, Stattler put in a much more polished performance on this occasion – winging the usual penultimate flight and then staying on strongly despite the extremely long run in. That long run in at Leopardstown with the last not being jumped was actually a good trial for the New Course at Cheltenham considering there are only 2 flights in the last 6 furlongs, and Stattler showed he can be game when he hears a Horse coming to him – as his quicker stablemate (in receipt of 7lbs) Glens Of Antrim got quite close before Stattler powered away again to score by 3 lengths going away at the line.

Stattler’s final assignment before Cheltenham saw him stepped up in trip once more, as this time he ran in the 2m6f Grade 1 Novice Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival. Leading the field as usual, Stattler had them all at it heading down towards the last, but again he had a quicker stablemate coming at him – with Gaillard Du Mesnil taking over at the final flight and going away to score comfortably. There’s no shame in being beaten by the Ballymore 2nd mind, and Stattler did stick to his task well – just being mugged for 3rd place on the line by another talented Horse in Gentlemansgame. I think it is worth noting however that Stattler and Fakiera both had to try and give away 2lbs to the first two home that day, and clearly both Horses will be suited to finally stepping up in trip to 3m at Cheltenham come March. If there is no pace on then Stattler will happily take them along in the Albert Bartlett, but I’d equally have no concerns if a Horse such as Adrimel wanted to bounce out instead – as Paul Townend can just have him tracking in a prominent position before taking up the running when required. Owner Ronnie Bartlett is the current Chairman of race sponsors Albert Bartlett, but he is yet to win his own race – coming closest in 2016 when 2nd with Fagan. Stattler will give him the best chance of taking home his own first-prize yet however, and I’m sure this has been his target all season long.

Stattler also ticks a lot of boxes in terms of trends, but he’s the opposite of Fakiera when it comes to experience – with only 6 career starts to his name, and three runs over Hurdles. That is the exact number of runs Monkfish had last season however, and Minella Indo the year before had even less – so looking at very recent trends he’s bang on the money. Stattler is another six-year-old, but he is trained by the Albert Bartlett’s top trainer Willie Mullins, and he will also have the race’s top jockey Paul Townend aboard. Stattler is not a Maiden, is yet to race at Cheltenham, and he ran over 2m6f+ when placing that aforementioned Grade 1 at Leopardstown on his latest start.

Advised Ante-Post

15:05 – WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup (Grade 1) – 3m2½f

I’m feeling the pressure here a little as I’ve put up every Gold Cup winner since Sizing John in 2017 on this page. The Horse who I fancy this year however is Henry de Bromhead’s A Plus Tard, as I just think the drying ground will suit him more than it does Al Boum Photo. Another factor for choosing A Plus Tard here is the fact that Rachael Blackmore has been absolutely mustard this week, but the market has already cottoned on to that and this up and coming 7yo is now vying for favouritism!

When you look through the form however, A Plus Tard does fit the Sizing John mould of Horse in that he’s been successful over shorter trips; bolting up in the Novices’ Handicap Chase by 16 lengths here in 2019 off a mark of 144. Since then he’s developed into a very classy Horse however, including when winning the 2m Grade 1 Chase at Leopardstown on the 27th December 2019 – beating none other than Chacun Pour Soi (173) by 3.75 lengths. He returned to the Cheltenham Festival 12 months ago with a good 3rd behind Min (168) in the 2m4f Grade 1 Ryanair Chase, but his pest performance to date came at Leopardstown over Christmas – where this time he ran a blinder when upped to 3m for the first time since April 2019. He stayed on extremely strongly at the finish that day to beat subsequent Irish Gold Cup winner Kemboy by 0.5 lengths, really proving his stamina – something that again he will need to prove on Friday at Cheltenham. Clearly a very classy animal however, A Plus Tard should have a great chance for the in form Rachael Blackmore/Henry de Bromhead team.

15:40 – Festival Challenge Cup Open Hunters’ Chase (Class 2) – 3m2½f

Every year I try and find an angle into the Hunters Chase, and every year they finish nowhere. Next!

16:15 – Mares’ Chase (Grade 2) – 2m4½f

Willie Mullins is brilliant with his Mares, and he has a mob hand on the new Mares Chase as you would probably expect. Now don’t get me wrong, I thought Colreevy put in a lovely performance in the Grade 2 Mares Novice Chase on her latest start – where she won by an easy 12 lengths back to Mount Ida. Whilst that is grand and she jumped well however, that rival was only rated 134 over Hurdles so it’s nothing short of what you’d expect, and the fact that Colreevy will be a Novice Chaser running under a penalty in an open-company race at Cheltenham (giving weight to the whole field with only 3 Chase starts under her belt) cools my optimism for her chances. With that in mind, I’m the most likely winner is a Mare who ran in the very next race at Thurles in January…

Elimay started her career with C Lerner in France, where she placed twice in Listed Hurdles and twice in Grade 3 Hurdles as a three-year-old. Snapped up for €310,000 by JP McManus she then went into training with Willie Mullins. Given plenty of time to adapt to her new surroundings (and of course a new country!) as Willie so often does, Elimay made her Irish debut 420 days after her last start at Auteuil – running in a 2m4f Grade 3 Mares Hurdle at Leopardstown in December 2018, and beaten only 0.5 lengths by Good Thyne Tara (145), when also having Limini (147) behind. Given a break of 73 days she then headed straight to the 2019 2m4f Mares Hurdle at Cheltenham – but she was probably just a bit too inexperienced, and only could manage a 6th placed finish. Despite being beaten however, the experience of going to the Festival won’t be lost on her when returning in March.

After that race she bolted up in a conditions Hurdle at Punchestown and a Listed Hurdle at Killarney in May 2019, before then returning to the track for a Novice Chase campaign last Autumn. Making her Chase debut in a Grade 3 Mares Novice Chase at Cork in December 2019, Elimay comfortably won by 5 lengths – beating a solid yardstick in Augusta Gold (146) without much fuss. She then went to Thurles 12 months ago when running in the Grade 2 that Colreevy won on Wednesday – where she stayed on strongly and pinged the last to score by 9 lengths from Cut The Mustard (140), with Augusta Gold even further behind on this occasion.

Elimay made her return to the track this season at Punchestown in November, where she ran in a 2m2½f Mares Hurdle. Running a belter of race for her reappearance, Elimay put in a really game performance when only just touched off a nose by stablemate Buildmeupbuttercup (145) – but she was having her 6th race of the season at the time so was clearly fitter of the two rivals. The pair pulled 12 lengths clear of Black Tears (147) that day mind, so the form certainly has a strong look to it. The performance that rates Elimay as having the best chance of winning the Mares Chase to me however is her run in the 2m4f Grade 2 Horse & Jockey Hotel Chase at Thurles on Wednesday. Well supported in the market before the off, Elimay ran a massive race once again – coming off the bridle to make a strong looking challenge at the final flight. Although she was eventually seen off by stablemate Allaho (160), it was clearly a very pleasing performance to finish that close to what is a Grade 1 Horse – and on only her third start over fences she has shown that her level of form is beyond that of just in Novice company. Another really pleasing aspect of that performance is the fact that the pair pulled 79 lengths clear of the third placed Annamix (153) – who himself is a useful yard stick. It’s not something I always look at, but the time comparisons make for interesting reading too – with the race won by Allaho run in 5m33.8s, and the race won by Colreevy run in 5m37.8s.

Elimay enjoyed a perfect preparation for the Mares Chase at Naas on her latest start last month, where she dropped back in trip to 2m and won the Listed Opera Hat Mares Chase in easy fashion – beating Shattered Love by 5.5 lengths in the process. Now rated 155 and receiving 2lbs from her market rival Colreevy (150), Elimay will also be 2lbs better off at the weights with Shattered Love despite beating her last time – so clearly she will take some stopping under Mark Walsh. With Allaho boosting her form in fantastic style when winning the Grade 1 Ryanair Chase on Thursday, Elimay’s price has completely crashed now – so if you’re not on already then this might be one to sit back and watch.

Advised Ante-Post

16:50 – Martin Pipe Conditional Jockey’s Handicap Hurdle (Class 2) – 2m4½f

My first selection for the Martin Pipe is Gavin Cromwell’s Gabynako, who looks a fantastic bet considering how his form has worked out this week, and how it could even get better on the day! This 6yo is quite an experienced Novice with 6 runs over Hurdles to date, the first of which when finishing 0.5 lengths 2nd behind Eskylane (133) over 2m at Punchestown in October. He again finihsed 2nd over that trip on his next start at Fairyhouse in November, but this time he was only just denied a Nose – by none other than Albert Bartlett favourite Fakiera (144). Getting off the mark 18 days later at Naas however, Gabynako bolted up by 6.5 lengths – and the form isn’t half bad either, with Battle Of Actium winning subsequently, and Captain Kangaroo (131) is a 14/1 shot in the County Hurdle earlier on the card.

Stepping up in trip would help to bring out further improvement in Gabynako however, and his first effort over that trip came in the 2m4f Grade 2 Novice Hurdle at Navan in December – where he ran really well to finish 3rd behind Ashdale Bob (146) and Fakiera (144) once again – and he was only beaten 6.75 lengths by the winner so it was a very good effort. Perhaps his best piece of form comes from the Grade 1 Lawlor’s Of Naas Novice Hurdle in January however, as Gabynako ran a brilliant race to finish 3rd once again – this time only beaten 8.75 lengths by Wednesday’s facile Ballymore winner Bob Olinger (150*), and only 2.25 lengths behind Tuesday’s Supreme final flight faller Blue Lord (145) – so obviously that form is looking red hot right now.

Gabynako had a run in a Handicap on his latest start, but the drop back to 2m at the Dublin Racing Festival was never really going to suit. His race was over once making a bad mistake at the 2nd flight that day, but he did run on through beaten Horses to take 11th, so it wasn’t the worst effort you’ll ever see. Back up to 2m4½f at Cheltenham on Friday should be perfect for Gabynako however, and his mark of 141 doesn’t look too bad in the context of his Graded performances. If Fakiera wins the Albert Bartlett then I could see Gabynako going off a very short price for Gavin Cromwell, who of course took the Stayers Hurdle with Flooring Porter on Thursday afternoon. Conor McNamara is a good Jockey booking.

5 Places

My second selection for the Martin Pipe is Joseph O’Brien’s Fire Attack, and he’s a Horse I’ve been waiting for connections to step back up in trip. Last season Fire Attack racked up some good Bumper form, beating Julies Stowaway (125), Torygraph (143) and On Eagles Wings (137) at Limerick, before narrowly being denied a head by Farouk D’alene (140) at Naas, when also having Stattler (146) behind. Chucked straight into the deep end on Hurdles debut however, connections started him off in a 2m4f Grade 3 Novice Hurdle at Navan in November – where he ran an absolute cracker to only be denied in the final strides by Fakiera (144), when having County Hurdle fancy Champagne Gold (144) 2.5 lengths behind, and subsequent Grade 2 winning Hurdler Farouk D’alene 5 lengths adrift.

His season began to stagnate a little when dropped back to 2m however, as he could only manage 6th in the 2m Grade 1 Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown over Christmas behind Appreciate It (153*). The 2m trip again seemed to catch him out when running in the Grade 2 Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle at Punchestown in January when falling at the last, but he ran much better race in Listed company on his latest start – only being beaten 4 lengths by Thedevilscoachman (142) in a first time hood. Considering Fire Attack’s connections however, I do suspect that they have been waiting for the perfect opportunity to step him back up in trip 2m4f considering how well he ran on debut – and a BHA mark of just 138 makes him look very well treated in the Martin Pipe. With a first time tongue-tie added to help with his breathing as well as the Hood that seemed to help him last time retained, Fire Attack looks well Handicapped and should have a big chance in the Martin Pipe under Oakley Brown.

5 Places

Good luck! – Jake Price

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