RACING AHEAD: A selection of Irish horses to follow

Racing Ahead with Tony McCormick

Racing Ahead with Tony McCormick

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Racing pundit Tony McCormick from www.irishbigracetrends.com presents his weekly column and this week has a tour of some of the top Irish stables.

In the last two years at the Cheltenham Festival 24 of the 54 winning horses were trained in Ireland. Willie Mullins, of course, leads the way with 12 winners, with Tony Martin, Gordon Elliott, Jim Culloty, Dermot Weld, Margaret Mullins, Jessie Harrington, Noel Meade and Enda Bolger all chipping in the Irish pot. Here are a couple of runners you may like to note down to follow in the next couple of months.

Willie Mullins had eight winners at this year’s Festival from 54 runners, with Glens Melody (6/1), Wicklow Brave (25/1) and Killultagh Vic (7/1) all winning at decent prices joining the likes Douvan, Un Des Sceaux, Faugheen and Vautour in the winner’s enclosure.

Bachasson may be a youngster to keep an eye on. A French import has won all four hurdle starts including a Grade 3 Novice Hurdle at Tipperary in October. Mullins believes he has the make-up of a Cheltenham horse and what he has shown so far suggests he may well be up to that level. His previous owners in France are adamant the four-year-old wants soft ground, which is encouraging for his prospects during the winter.

Petit Mouchoir won a point-to-point at Kirkistown in February prior to making an impressive win in a bumper at the Punchestown Festival. Mullins says hurdling will be the plan following the four-year-old being schooled at Gordon Elliott’s stable.

Trainer Elliott has quickly risen through the ranks in Ireland, but has become well known for his fearless assaults on British racecourses, with a particular liking for Perth.

Free Expression, owned by J P McManus, is expected to go chasing this season and according to his trainer has strengthened up since his last run a year ago. His trainer sees no reason why he won’t stay three miles.

Whistle Dixie is a half sister to Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Kicking King and was last seen finishing second at the Grand National meeting at Aintree in April. Elliott says the five-year-old has had a wind operation since her last run and whatever she does over hurdles will be a bonus as she is a big chaser in the making, but the new mares’ Novice hurdle at the festival could be the main target this season.

Henry De Bromhead has steadily built up his Knockeen stable over the last 15 years and had his best season last term with 49 winners. This season De Bromhead has already sent out 35 winners which puts him firmly in line for his best-ever number of winners.

Alisier D’Irlande was formerly with Phillip Hobbs but won on stable debut for De Bromhead in March. The plan, says his trainer, is to go chasing with the five-year-old, who wouldn’t want it too soft, but normal winter ground should be OK for the gelding.

Sizing John won his second chase on Sunday at Punchestown in the Grade 2 Craddockstown Novice Chase, putting three-time chase winner Lord Scoundrel firmly in his place and is already a 12/1 chance for the Arkle at Cheltenham. Jockey JJ Burke said the five-year-old never missed the beat and said his mount’s jumping was brilliant. The gelding was third in last season Supreme Novices behind winner Douvan who, though yet to make his chasing debut, is a solid 2/1 favourite for the Arkle in March.

For more details on the Cheltenham ‘Insiders’ insight Pack go to irishbigracetrends.com