Voler La Vedette can claim Hatton's Grace, says Alex Hammond
Alex Hammond believes that Voler La Vedette can bounce back to form in the Hatton's Grace Hurdle.
Last Updated: 01/12/12 4:54pm
The first of them is the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle where Champagne Fever is favourite for Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh. This is a horse with an impeccable record in bumpers, with one of his three wins coming in Cheltenham's Champion Bumper. He has made the perfect start to his hurdles career too with a very easy win in a Maiden Hurdle at Cork. His only defeat came on his rules debut and he also has a point to point win to his name.
Jezki is next best for Jessie Harrington and Barry Geraghty. He has had the two starts over hurdles and bagged a Grade 3 at Naas last time out. He wasn't as good as the Mullins horse in bumpers and finished behind him at Cheltenham, but is related to some smart hurdle winners and looks decent himself.
Minsk is another leading contender for Dessie Hughes. This horse is a recruit from the flat where he was rated over 100 and won the Irish Cezarewitch off 93. He was considered a Triumph Hurdle candidate in the early part of the year, but didn't run after his hurdle debut in February and then had a couple of runs in Listed races on the flat before returning to obstacles in a Maiden Hurdle at Punchestown which he won comfortably. Hopefully he can go on from there, but this is red hot.
It's tough to take on the Mullins yard at any time, but his horses are in storming form at the moment and I'm with Champagne Fever. The Drinmore Novice Chase is the next and Mullins and Walsh have another great chance with Arvika Ligeonniere. He won on his chase debut in May after a delayed switch to chasing after suffering physical problems. He is a huge horse though and a very exciting prospect in the novice division.
Dedigout is another with a record that reads 1/1 over fences. He runs for Tony Martin and Davy Russell and is another fine chasing type. He is a Grade 1 winner over hurdles and will have no problems with conditions. Buckers Bridge is unbeaten in four starts, winning a point, two bumpers and then going straight over fences and winning a Beginners' Chase at Punchestown in October. He is held in high regard by trainer Henry de Bromhead, but this is a big step up.
It's another exciting race and looks between the top two in the market. I'm going to go with the Mullins runner Arvika Ligeonniere to give the stable a second Grade 1 on the card.
The Hatton's Grace Hurdle looks a real cracker too with Voler la Vedette the likely favourite. Again a small field, but it's all quality, with five going to post. Voler la Vedette suffered a reverse of form when beaten by Whatuthink when hot favourite for a Grade 2 Hurdle last time out. She was beaten by a race fit rival there though and all being well that will have put her right for Sunday's race. Mullins runs Zaidpour and So Young with the former looking the pick with Ruby Walsh on board. Monksland is another with a chance for Noel Meade and Paul Carberry.
I'm going with Voler la Vedette to win this race for the second successive year with her 7lb mares allowance and the benefit of that run under her belt.
Champagne Fever in the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle
Arvika Ligeonniere in the Drinmore Novice Chase
Voler la Vedette in the Hatton's Grace Hurdle