Aigle can soar
Alex Hammond pinpoints Aigle D'Or as the value in Monday's highly-anticipated Irish Grand National.
Last Updated: 06/04/12 3:59pm
With the Easter weekend to look forward to there is plenty of racing.
The highlights are in Ireland, the Irish National at Fairyhouse on Monday and the Grade 1 Powers Gold Cup the day before.
Kicking off with Saturday, though, where there is flat all weather action from Kempton, turf flat racing from Musselburgh and jumping from Haydock.
The turf flat season has made its usual stuttering start and the best flat action comes on the all weather at Kempton. The Listed Snowdrop Fillies' Stakes looks decent.
Sooraah looks the most likely winner for William Haggas and Ryan Moore - although I'm wary of Law of the Range for Marco Botti, who has booked Adam Kirby to ride.
Sooraah should suit the drop back to a mile after her fifth place in the Winter Derby at Lingfield two weeks ago. The race wasn't run to suit there and I fancied her quite strongly to win this so I hope she can reward my loyalty.
The feature on a valuable card at Musselburgh is the Royal Mile, which is a Handicap restricted to three-year-olds. Mark Johnston's Switzerland is top weight and the likely favourite.
He has been in good form on the all weather recently and hopefully he can translate that to turf. He tries a mile for the second time after an impressive win over seven furlongs last time out, and there is no reason to think he shouldn't stay it well.
Gabrial represents a stable that has made a good start to the season. His trainer Richard Fahey saddled the Lincoln winner last weekend and the horse is having his first start in a handicap on this seasonal reappearance, having run in the Group 2 Coventry last June.
In fact, he has been off the track since then and off a mark of 89 could prove to be well handicapped. Bronze Angel is also in with a chance in a competitive race for Marcus Tregoning and Hayley Turner. He is progressing and is held in some regard.
Roger Varian is a trainer to note when he runs horses in these types of races and he is represented by Shabora, who comes here having won her last two and is also progressing. There are some exciting horses in this line up but I'm going to take a chance that Gabrial is fit and ready after his layoff.
There are three £50,000 races at Haydock and one of them is the 2m 4f Handicap Chase. The fact that AP McCoy is sticking with Ferdy Murphy's Divers is a good sign.
He rode the horse to finish fourth in the Byrne Group Plate at the Cheltenham Festival. Murphy also has Lord Villez in the race with new stable jockey James Reveley booked to ride - but that one only has a light weight which would rule McCoy out.
Onto Sunday then and the Powers Gold Cup at Fairyhouse. The Grade 1 run over 2 1/2 miles and 12 are entered. They are headed by Flemenstar, who has won four times in a row over fences including the Irish Arkle and keeps on impressing.
His trainer Peter Casey decided against running him at Cheltenham and says this has been the plan all year. The seven-year-old worked at the Curragh recently and he is on track for this race. The only negative would be fast ground, but at the time of writing it was described as good and there are a few showers forecast, although it's mainly dry so the plan is to water with the aim of maintaining good ground. Hopefully that will suit him well enough but Casey will check the track on raceday before committing to the contest.
Mouse Morris trains Rathlin, who comes here with wins in his last three races over fences. The seven-year-old is learning to settle and that has brought about his progression. He has done most of his winning on testing ground.
Willie Mullins has Call The Police and Bishopsfurze entered, although the former looks his best chance after his third place in the RSA Chase on only his third start over fences. He won the Dr PJ Moriarty Novice Chase on only his second start over fences and he seems to handle good ground although he has won on heavy. I've been really impressed with Flemenstar and I hope he can win again.
There is also a decent Graded Novice Hurdle on the card which has attracted a large entry. I've liked Lord Windermere all season and Jim Culloty's six-year-old has looked impressive on a couple of starts over hurdles before he finished fourth in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse in February.
He won again at Naas a month ago and is set to step back up in class for Sunday's Grade Two contest. I'm a bit concerned about the good ground for him as he is unproven on the surface. It doesn't mean he won't handle it but it's an unknown factor.
Culloty has to take on the powerful Willie Mullins stable. The Irish Champion trainer has Earls Quarter, Laganbank, Pickapocketortwo, Terminal and Turban entered in this. County Hurdle winner Alderwood could come back to novice company for Tom Mullins and he is the highest rated in the field. He has a few entries though and isn't a certain starter.
Lyreen Legend is another entry who is unproven on good ground and if he lines up Dessie Hughes' charge will have to give weight away to all his rivals. It's tough to call before final declarations, but I know Lord Windermere has had this as his target and I hope the ground isn't a problem for him.
The big betting race over Easter is Monday's Irish National, also at Fairyhouse. Noel Meade's Cross Appeal has been shortened in the market (he's 12/1 with Sky Bet) after he was guaranteed a starting place in this valuable 3m 5f contest. The horse landed a gamble in the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas and his trainer is happy with his preparation ahead of the race.
Four Commanders and Groody Hill share favouritism at 10s with Sky Bet. Kicking King's brother Four Commanders was third in the NH Hunt Chase at the festival for Mouse Morris and Groody Hill is one of a host of entries for owner JP McManus who also has Quiscover Fontaine and Alfie Sherrin as part of his nine-strong team of entries. Groody Hill was third behind Cross Appeal in the Paddy Power (a race that gives us some pointers for this contest) and he should suit the step up in trip.
One of JP's runners that looks interesting to me is Aigle D'Or (16/1) who is trained by Nicky Henderson. On his running in the Paddy Power at Leopardstown in December he looked like a step up to this trip would suit as he was doing all his best work in the closing stages.
Allee Garde and Ninetieth Minute are all 12/1 shots. Ninetieth Minute has been quite well supported in the lead up to this race for Tom Taaffe, he showed his likeness for this track in February and despite missing the whole of 2011 he retains all his ability. He has only had four starts over fences and looks an interesting contender on his first try at this trip.
14/1 shot Lastoftheleaders represents last year's winning trainer Arthur Moore. So, as you can see it's wide open but I'm hoping Aigle D'Or can run into a place for Nicky Henderson, who was all conquering at Cheltenham and has a few runners at this Irish National meeting.
Soorah in the Snowdrop Fillies' Stakes at Kempton
Gabrial in the Royal Mile at Musselburgh
Divers in the Handicap Chase at Haydock
Flemenstar in the Powers Gold Cup at Fairyhouse
Lord Windermere in the Grade 2 Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse
Aigle D'Or in the Irish National at Fairyhouse @ 16/1 each way