Cheltenham countdown continues

HORSES FOR COURSES   by TOM RED Irish racing this weekend starts on the level at Dundalk on Friday night when a number of the Irish Cheltenham bound horses will have a run on the flat with the first race of at 6.40.   Crossmaglen Benefit Night are the sponsors of all races and in the 1m 4f conditions race are Carlie Swan’s Emmpat, Tony Martin’s Leg Spinner, John Kiely’s Al Eile, and Noel Meade’s Harchibald in what will prove a good Cheltenham blowout for most of those horses. It is also noted that the Niall Moran trained Nora Chrissie is 5 th reserve in this race and if she gets in should improve on her 2 nd here in December to Amagard having had a run in Wolverhampton in January. The Sliabh Bawn Stables resident will give them all plenty to do and would not be winning out of turn.   Niall Moran also runs Johnstown Lad in the 6f Handicap and after his unlucky recent defeat at the hands of Ebraan over 5f in Lingfield is worth following and might be the pick of the weekend.   And in the opener a fillies maiden over 1m Niall has a double hand with Kathleen Cox and Leo’s Lucky Angel. Both these have had 1 run on the turf and are probably best watched as Michael Halford’s Tarakaza, 2 nd here in December will probably go off strong favourite.    On Saturday racing is at Navan. First race at 2.15 and on Sunday there are 2 meetings – one at Clonmel at 2.10 and the main meeting of the weekend at Leopardstown starting at1.55. There will be more interest in the schooling after racing than in the racing itself as a lot of the Cheltenham bound horses will be schooled on the track.    CHELTENHAM PREVIEW NIGHT: On Monday Night at the Abbey Hotel Roscommon Lions Club host their 3 rd Annual Cheltenham Preview Night with the one and only Tracy Piggott in the chair. The poor woman will have her hands full with trainer Tony Mullins, bookmaker Ivan Yeates and joker of the weigh room jockey Ken Whelan on the panel along with Noel O’Brien, the handicapper, At The Races Robert Cooper, and jockeys Robbie Power and Paddy Flood.    A good informative night is assured. Come along and ask the panel their opinions about your own fancies for the festival races. All funds raised go towards the Lions Club Suicide Awareness Programme and the Youth Centre Project in Roscommon town.      Next week we will look in-depth at some of the festival races. FAIRYHOUSE: Fairyhouse’s Grand National Trial The Bobbyjo Chase was won by Noel Meade’s Afistfulofdollars showing a return to form for the yard approaching the Cheltenham Festival. This was a good showing as he won, despite a mistake at the 3 rd last, from the Willie Mullins’ pair Hegdehunter and Snowy Morning with Charlie Swan’s One Cool Cookie in 4 th . Meade is sorry that he had not entered the 10-Y-O in the Gold Cup.   The winner of Sunday’s bumper at Naas Gonebeyondrecall is not qualified to the £30,000 bonus as he cannot run in The Champion Bumper at Cheltenham having run over hurdles. The 5-YO Dr Massini gelding is trained by N F Glynn and his capable assistant Jason Titley.    Oliver Brady’s Maralan followed up his Grade 2 Navan win 7 days earlier when winning the Newlands Grade 2 Chase at Naas. Running a big race he was 2 nd going into the last fence where the favourite Schindlers Hunt skewed the fence and deposited jockey Andrew McNamara on the ground. Oliver, stating the fences are there to be jumped, once more belted out his Up Monaghan verse as the horse was led in to the delight of the crowd. And now as I indicated last week it’s off to the Festival for the Grand Annual Chase for Oliver and the horse – and who knows?  McCOY UPDATE: Tony McCoy has made great progress in his recovery from a back injury sustained in a fall from Arnold Layne in January and he is back riding out this week. He expects to be back riding next week.    McCoy’s progress was due to Kriotherapy treatment which involves going into an insulated compartment where the temperature is minus 135 degrees — which helps improve blood circulation in the body.  POINT TO POINT: The point to point season gets into full swing this weekend with 6 meetings, 2 on Saturday. The East Down Hunt race at the beautiful scenic track at Tyrella and in the south the Kilworth and Araglen hunt race at Kilworth both meetings starting at 1.00.    There are 4 meetings on Sunday at Bandon in Co. Cork.  First race at 1.30. Other meetings at Lemonfield outside Limerick, Tinahely in Bray and the first of the local meetings in the midlands at The Pidgeons between Ballymahon and Athlone – all starting at 1.00.    Johnandavid, bred by John Cullen in Frenchpark missed the older horses maiden at Killaloe and is entered is a similar race at The Pidgeons. The mare Amazing View, owned by the Roscommon based Amazing View Syndicate, and trained by Tom Cleary outside Athlone, ran in the older mares maiden and on a very difficult track pulled up 4 out.    Jack Monday, trained by Tom Cleary, finished 2 nd on Sunday in Killaloe and is in the Confined Race at the Pidgeons and with a run could go close.   In the 2 nd , Mollys Garden 3 rd in Roscommon in November to Definite Appeal and Turn Up, a winner since, should win and might be a nice price.   In the Open Arctic Copper once again appears but the 15-Y-O may have to give way to the younger generation here in the shape of a very good horse called Green Wellies who has won his last 3 races starting in November at Lisbride in Roscommon and last time out a 2m 7f Hunterchase at Downpatrick. He is trained in Mullingar by Dot Love and has been ridden by a young jockey Aaron Murphy.      Derek O’Connor had 4 winners last weekend, putting him on the 47 mark and he now leads Jamie Codd by 18 with M J. O’Connor in 3 rd on 23.