Alex Hammond: Cause for Causes can win Monday's Irish Grand National
Alex Hammond reveals her tips for the Irish Grand National and the other decent racing in Ireland this weeend.
Last Updated: 18/04/14 6:11pm
When the decision was first made it received a lukewarm reception, but the £1m race-day at Lingfield has really captured the imagination and there are seven incredibly well-contested races, culminating in the £200,000 Coral Easter Classic All-Weather Middle Distance Championships Conditions Stakes (like the numerous Easter eggs that will be consumed this weekend it's quite a mouthful!).
There is a superb card building up to that with three £150,000 races. The first of those is the 32 Red Casino All Weather Marathon Championship... don't mention 'marathon' to me, I'm still recovering from what was a pretty tough London Marathon last weekend! Still, that's one box ticked and it was a fantastic experience and more importantly we've raised almost £4,000 for Maggie's Centres.
Anyway, I digress, back to the racing. I've really enjoyed the series building up to this Marathon final. It's no surprise to see the Seamus Durack-trained Litigant head the market. He has proved to be a shrewd purchase for his up-and-coming trainer.
Durack bought him at Doncaster Sales in January for the relatively low price of £18,500 from the Darley operation, who had had the horse in training in France with Andre Fabre for whom he had won two of his three starts.
He has since won two of his three starts for his new trainer who has kept him fresh for this having run him last time on the 1st March. There looks to be more improvement to come from this lightly raced six-year-old who has an entry for a Group 2 at York next month. Having said all of that, he is a short enough price and I'd be keen to find something that will give him a run for his money.
David Simcock proved his ability to stay the marathon trip in London last weekend and he will be hoping for a good run from Castilo Del Diablo. Like the favourite this horse is proven at the two-mile trip having won over it at Kempton last time out. He was well beaten by Litigant on his penultimate start though, but didn't get the clearest of runs and stayed on strongly. He is unexposed at this trip and has the cheekpieces on again - he merits a place on the shortlist.
Hunting Ground is one of two for Mark Johnston, Blue Wave is the other. I like Blue Wave as he's a potential improver on his first try at this trip, but it's a worry that Joe Fanning has overlooked him to ride Hunting Ground, the excellent Adam Kirby has picked up that good spare ride. Hunting Ground stays well as he proved when winning over 2m ½ furlong at Wolverhampton. He has been beaten twice since, but both times over inadequate trips.
Amanda Perrett's Arch Villain has been good to me this season when winning at Lingfield in Janaury. He is the type of horse that will improve with time and he stays very well. Let's hope he gets the stamina test that will aid his cause. Andrew Balding is another of Sunday's 'marathoners' and he runs Communicator here.
Oisin Murphy rides for the first time but he will need all of his skill to win on this horse who has only won two of his 24 starts which is a slightly worrying strike rate. The favourite has an obvious chance, but at the prices I'm going to go with Castilo Del Diablo to win the Marathon.
From the stayers to the Bookmakers.co.uk All Weather Sprint Championships and this six-furlong contest looks very open. The draw is important over this trip and you wouldn't be keen on anything with a double-digit stall position. That rules out Addictive Dream, Hasopop, Rivellino and Tarooq.
Lancelot Du Lac comes out of two for Dean Ivory. The trip is ideal for him and he's another strong type of colt who can only get better in time. William Muir saddles Stepper Point who, on the other hand, has done most of his winning over five furlongs. However, a gelding operation after his dismal run in the Abbaye in October seems to have helped as his win on his all-weather debut last month testifies. He is the highest rated in this Conditions Stakes.
Valbchek represents Jeremy Noseda and Ryan Moore. Noseda had the option of running this horse in Dubai, but when he qualified for the finals day decided to save him for this. He looks capable of further improvement, the trip suits and he loves the surface, all factors that have prompted me to go with him over Stepper Point.
Moving on to the Ladbrokes All Weather Mile Championships now and for me this is all about Captain Cat for Roger Charlton. This five-year-old is fairly drawn in eight and comes here in good form having run very well to finish close up second on his last two starts.
He last run was back in January where he was just beaten over 10 furlongs by subsequent Winter Derby winner Robins Hood Bay and whilst the trip wasn't used as an excuse I think the drop back to this mile will be more suitable.
His win over a mile at Kempton back in October looks strong form and he had the option of running in the Easter Classic here but has gone for this easier option. He was also a leading contender for the Lincoln at Doncaster until soft ground ruled him out and I hope he gets compensation here.
The £200,000 Coral Easter Classic All-Weather Middle Distance Championships is the most valuable race on the card and there are some familiar names in the line-up. Jeremy Noseda's Grandeur isn't a horse I have taken a shine to and it was disappointing to see him beaten in the Winter Derby which was won by Robins Hood Bay.
The bad draw didn't help his cause on that day and it's worth bearing in mind that he is by far the highest-rated in this field. Robin Hoods Bay has been a great servant for connections this winter. This course and distance really brings out the best in him and it would be remarkable for him to add this race to the two he has won this winter.
Ed Vaughan's horse has a middle draw and Luke Morris is in the saddle once again. Solar Deity can go well for Marco Botti and Adam Kirby if he stays this trip which he has had a run over in Meydan this winter. That was inconclusive, but he has shown the extended mile at Wolverhampton is no problem for him and hasn't been stopping at the end of those races.
Dick Doughtywylie hails from the red hot yard of John Gosden and he ran well at a big price to be fourth in the Winter Derby on his reappearance. He's a horse I'd be prepared to take a chance on as he seems a tough, genuine horse and he could run well at a decent price. It promises to be a cracking days racing, let's hope we get some winners.
There is some good racing in Ireland over Easter weekend and on Easter Sunday the Powers Gold Cup takes centre stage. This Grade 1 is run over 2miles 4 furlongs at Fairyhouse and there are some top notch horses entered. One of which is Ballycasey who finished fourth in the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham festival.
The drop back from three miles looks like it will suit as he travelled a bit too well at Cheltenham so I would expect to see him finish off his race better if he runs. Don Cossack had the option of the Irish National on Monday, but Gordon Elliott has chosen to run him here instead.
It was good to see him put in a clear round when finishing second to Holywell at Aintree after his fall in the RSA at Cheltenham. He's a funny horse who never really fulfilled his potential last term, but we have seen much more of what we hoped for this time round and I hope he can add to his win over this course and distance in the Drinmore back in December in this.
Then on Easter Monday it's the big one, the Irish Grand National. I really fancied Cause of Causes for the Kim Muir at the Cheltenham festival and was disappointed when he blundered away his chance at the last fence and finished in the runner up spot. He has been raised 6lbs for that. He should have a bit more time to think about things here and I hope he can gain compensation.
Cheltenham's Foxhunter winner Tammys Hill is another one to consider after his decisive win last month. He is interesting off his mark of 135. The day I oppose Shutthefrontdoor will be the day he pops up. He has plenty in his favour, including the form of trainer Jonjo O'Neill, but he's let me down once too often this season.
Home Farm was third in this last year and is 5lbs higher this time round. His still only a seven-year-old and drying ground will suit this son of Presenting. I'm chasing my losses here with Cause of Causes, with Tammys Hills my main danger.
Castilo Del Diablo in the Marathon Championships @ 11/2 with Sky Bet
Valbchek in the Sprint Championships @ 13/2 with Sky Bet
Captain Cat in the Mile Championships @ 5/1 with Sky Bet
Dick Doughtywylie in the Middle Distance Championships @ 10/1 with Sky Bet
Don Cossack in the Powers Gold Cup
Cause of Causes in the Irish Grand National @ 10/1 with Sky Bet