Fairyhouse staged Grade 1 contests on Sunday but I must confess the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle and Drinmore Novice Chase left underwhelming impressions. The Hattons Grace Hurdle, however, produced a good battle between Teahupoo and Impaire Et Passe with the former claiming the prize for the second consecutive year. Gordon Elliott indicated afterwards that the six year old is likely to be kept fresh for the Stayers' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in a bid to go two better than last season. With time on his side and unexposed over three miles, the ex-French gelding is set to play a leading role once again in the spring. Despite the fact the runner-up lost his unbeaten record over obstacles, Impaire Et Passe remains a top-class prospect. Beaten a length, the Diamond Boy gelding was a dozen lengths clear of the third and will be suited by a return to a strongly run two miles. Willie Mullins' dual Grade 1 winner jumped and travelled beautifully before being outstayed after the last. Ridden with more restraint over a shorter distance is expected to bring out the best in the Simon Munir and Isaac Souede owned gelding and he could prove the biggest threat to Constitution Hill in the Champion Hurdle.
I was working at Carlisle on Sunday with the six race card decimated by non runners - 24 of the 47 declared runners were pulled out due to the ground or travel problems. One of those included the Rebecca Menzies trained Batman For Ever who was due to contest the two miles three handicap hurdle off a mark of 100. The six year old was a four times winner in France for Guillaume Macaire (wore a tongue tie on each occasion) and arrived in the UK with an official rating of 122. Having underperformed in six starts for his new connections last term, the Jukebox Jury gelding's mark plummeted and is a well treated youngster this season. Interestingly, he was due to run with a tongue tie at the Cumbrian track and was the subject of strong support prior to his intended reappearance - Bet365 priced him up at 16/1 initially and he was around 5/2 when withdrawn on Sunday afternoon. His owner is renowned for a tilt at the ring - regular readers of One Jump Ahead will remember Gandhi Maker last season - and he is a horse to keep an eye on in the coming weeks (he holds an entry at Sedgefield on Friday).
Declan Phelan's Irish Pointers section in OJA was in good form on Saturday with Jingko Blue (7/4) and Jalon D'Oudairies (11/8) both scoring at Newbury and Fairyhouse respectively. Hansard (15/2) was highlighted as a horse to follow in the Appendix and, in particular, capable of winning a valuable handicap hurdle this winter. Gary Moore's five year old did just that when staying on strongly to win the Gerry Feilden Hurdle at Newbury on Saturday off a mark of 138. Four and a quarter lengths runner-up in the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton on his return to action last month, he benefited from that outing when defeating Bad by three parts of a length at the Berkshire track. Very much at home on a flat track, his future lies in the hands of the handicapper but one would imagine he could head to Ascot for another competitive two miles handicap hurdle before Christmas (23rd December).
One of the most interesting races of the weekend was the two miles maiden hurdle at Fairyhouse on Saturday with Firefox edging out Ballyburn. The same contest was won by Facile Vega twelve months earlier and, in all likelihood, the pair who dominated the 2023 renewal - it was a dozen lengths back to the third - will develop into Grade 1 performers themselves. While it was disappointing to see Ballyburn lose his unbeaten record under Rules, Willie Mullins' charge remains a high-class prospect when upped in distance. Keen in his bumpers last term, the former Irish pointer was much more relaxed over obstacles and held every chance in the homestraight. His jumping was accurate, bar the second last, but he couldn't match the racefit winner for speed in the latter stages. Expect to see him running over two and a half miles plus in the New Year and it is not unrealistic to think be could be an Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle contender in March given his owner sponsors the staying event.
“Thank you for a very successful and profitable email service. My personal highlight was the win of Aloomomo whose romp round Uttoxeter was a joy. Keep up the good work with all your services, the books and updates, they are simply the best by a very long way.”
“Just want to say thanks for running the service again this year, I have ended up with a nice £756 profit from it so I'm obviously very happy with that so thanks a lot!”
“Thanks for your email Mark would just like to say your selections and insight has been awesome. Keep up the good work sir your service is the best.”
“Thank you for an excellent tipping service throughout the three months. It has been a pleasure and profitable to be a member of your service. Your indepth knowledge and analysis of the race has been excellent. I honestly rate your service as one of the best and most profitable.”
“Thanks very much for the fantastic service you have supplied, I have been involved with racing tipsters for over 30 years and never had as good a strike rate as yourself, out of this world.”
“The email service as usual has been brilliant and this season's OJA seems to continue to unearth amazing insight if you have the time to trust and follow it in detail over a period. Thanks as always for your outstanding value for money publications.”
“Superb information again Mark, I managed to get some 11/4, will certainly pay for Xmas. Different class.”
“Awesome result the magicman strikes again. Won with plenty in hand and not a moments worry great write up spot on again and results speak for themselves best service I've tried, keep up the fantastic work sir. Very happy customer!”
Mark Howard Publications Ltd.
69 Fairgarth Drive