Roscommon interest in Cheltenham Festivall

HORSES FOR COURSES   by TOM RED Irish racing this weekend starts on the level at Dundalk on Friday night and at Gowran Park on Saturday and Naas on Sunday.    And then onto the greatest show on earth starting on Tuesday when in the heart of the Cotswolds at the Cheltenham Festival 25 of the national hunt’s best races will be decided over 4 days. The cream of Irish and English horses take one another on over the hurdles and fences and the French also send over a few.    With a poor return of only 5 races last year Ireland will be hoping to improve this haul to near the double figures of 2005.  Cheltenham highlights: The main race on Tuesday is the Champion Hurdle and two Irish horses lead the market, the pretender to the throne Sizing Europe and the Champion, Sublimity.   Sizing Europe is a very short price favourite for a horse that only appeared on the Champion Hurdle scene after his recent 2 wins at Cheltenham and Leopardstown. In Leopardstown he beat the 11 year old Hardy Eustace by 8l in his first real test. Al Eile was a further head back in 3rd. Champion Sublimity has had only 1 run this year, a disappointing 4th at Cheltenham behind Osana in the Boyle Sports Hurdle and despite his reported good school at Leopardstown on Sunday he does not represent value at 5/1. Harchibald looks to be in great form on his win in Dundalk and will be there or thereabouts but how will he respond when pressure is applied?    Osana, winner of the Boylesports and only 4 lengths off Sizing Europe at Cheltenham giving 6lbs looks to be one that could overturn the top 2.    Racing opens with the Supreme Novices Hurdle which the Irish win with regularity and this year Jessica Harrington’s Cork All Star, winner of the 2007 bumper, and Eddie Harty’s Captain Cee Bee lead the Irish challenge. The value in this race looks to be the Nicky Henderson trained Binocular. The winner of the recent Adonis Hurdle at Kempton in the hands of Mick Fitzgerald, this JP McManus owned French bred horse will take a lot of beating. Winners of the Adonis have a very good record in the race. Mysilv, Katarino, Snow Drop and Penzance have all gone on to complete the double in recent years.    The Cross Country Chase is also on Tuesday and this race will provide another Irish favourite in the form of Tony Martin’s Wonderkid, winner of a similar race over the course in December -comfortably by 8l from Heads On the Ground stable mate of Spot Thedifference at Enda Bolger’s yard. In the hands of cross country specialist Ken Whelan Wonderkid looks the bet of the day on Tuesday.   On Wednesday The Queen Mother Champion Chase looks a match between the Paul Nicholls pair Master Minded and Twist Magic. Ruby has opted for Master Minded and Sam Thomas rides Twist Magic. Ruby changed his mind in this one and may regret it as Twist Magic who has won 4 of his 7 chases, including one at Cheltenham, looks to have the more experience. Both horses have recently beaten the reigning champion Voy Por Ustedes, Twist Magic by 3l at level weights and Master Minded getting 6lbs for 5l and all 3 should come over the last together and Twist Magic to win the uphill battle from Voy Por Ustedes in what looks one of the great races of the festival.   Roscommon is represented in the Champion Bumper by Corskeagh Royale from the Noel Meade yard, a horse owned by the Queen Maeve Racing Club, from north of the county. This dual winner may just not be good enough to beat Colm Murphy’s Zaarito, an easy winner by 8l of his 3rd bumper in Naas last time out. The eventual Willie Mullin’s selection will have to be respected in this race especially with the withdrawl of brother Tom’s good horse Time Electric.      Gilligan’s Hall, owned by Tom Gilligan from Loughglynn runs in the longest race of the festival, the National Hunt Novice Chase and a winner last time out for Willie Mullins over 2m 4f at Down Royal he might prove each way value at very big price. Beantown from Sean Aherne’s yard, 2nd in 2006 over 4m 1f in Cheltenham, could add to the Irish total after his recent return to form winning at Navan.   Finally on Thursday in the World Hurdle Inglis Drever is all the rage and will take beating but all Irish punters will be voting with their hearts here in the hope that Hardy Eustace will give Conor O’Dwyer a fitting farewell to the Cheltenham Festival. If Inglis Drever is not up to his best Hardy Eustace will be there at the last to take advantage and give Dessie Hughes and Conor another win in the Cotswolds. If dreams come true this team will receive an Irish reception second to none.     Conor is one of the few jockeys to have won both the Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup twice, thanks to the exploits of Hardy Eustace, Imperial Call and War Of Attrition and would love to go out on a winning note.   The Ryanair Chase will benefit from the apparent match in the Gold Cup of Kauto Star and Denman with the likes of Mossbank, Our Vic, and The Listener likely to take their chances here. Sponsor Michael O’Leary owns Mossbank which is trained by Michael Hourigan in Limerick and will go close. Tamarinblu is in the Queen Mother but if he turns up in this race he may just have the turn of foot to overcome the known stayers. However taking all into account and the horses holding entries elsewhere on its recent victory in the Hennessy at Leopardstown following being 3rd to Denman and Mossbank in the Lexus at Christmas The Listener is very difficult to oppose here and should give Daryl Jacob a well deserved win and trainer Robert Alner another boost in his recovery from injury in a car accident.   Watch out for Oliver Brady’s Maralan who followed up his Grade 2 Navan with the Newlands Grade 2 Chase at Naas and may run in one of the handicap chases. Oliver loves to have one good enough to bring to the festival and this one is also lucky. Watch for this one and if it is placed the crowd will gather around this one in the enclosure to see and hear Oliver with his Up Monaghan verse. A sight to behold for racing and non racing fans.    Friday’s card including the Gold Cup will be looked at in detail in next week edition.   Unfortunately jockey Graham Lee misses the Cheltenham Festival as he continues to recover from fracturing his jaw in two places when kicked following a fall at Huntingdon last month. Hard luck Niall: Last weekend the Niall Moran trained horses had no luck on Friday night when both Nora Chrissie and Leo’s Lucky Angel did not get the best of runs in rough races and in the last Johnstown Lad became lame after going out on the track and had to be withdrawn.     Leo’s Lucky Angel got squeezed up in the maiden and is worth watching next time out.    On Sunday there was a change of luck for Roscommon owned horses at Leopardstown when the Tom Gilligan owned Shakervilz trained by Willie Mullins and ridden by the one and only Ruby Walsh won the Maiden Hurdle from Stewart’s House. Unfortunately in this race the favourite Sandymount Earl suffered a fatal injury and is a big loss to Jessica Harrington’s yard.   In the main race of the day, The Mick Holly Memorial Chase, Well Tutored, trained by Arthur Moore for Mick Bailey from Boho ran out an easy winner from the Noel Meade trained Mattock Ranger. There was a nice touch had about the winner who last won in November 2006 at Naas.    The Bailey Brothers nearly made it a double when Lenrey, owned by Tom, trained by Arthur Moore and ridden by Davy Russell was 2nd to Perce Rock in the Novice Chase under David Casey. Preview Night: Monday Night at the Abbey Hotel