16.00 Cheltenham - Bondage, Un Beau Matin
We've given Bondage a break since he finished an excellent second to Conygreen over the same course and distance here, in a grade two novices' hurdle in November. Prior to that he had been showing some very smart form, winning a competitive handicap hurdle at Perth in September very well and then followed up here in October winning another very competitive handicap hurdle over course and distance by 2 ¾ lengths. The form of that win has worked out very well and he's been in great form since then, the only worry I would have, like Carlito Brigante yesterday, would be the ground.
If it stays dry he would have a good each way chance and id be hoping for a good run from him, with Paul Carberry booked to take the ride.
If the ground came up soft it would definitely benefit Un Beau Matin more, and I was very happy with his run behind On His Own at Navan in a Grade Two in February, where he was only beaten 3 ¾ lengths at the finish. He's been very consistent this season, bar his fall when looking the winner at Navan in December, he has been in great from this year and with Davy Russell booked I'd be hopeful of a good run.
Both of the horses have their chance, and they are very closely matched on the ratings and they would be hard to split, the ground will hold the key to their respective chances.
16:40 Cheltenham - Flaxen Flare
He came to me at the end of last year, having being trained by Andrew Balding on the flat in the UK. He won well first time up in a competitive maiden hurdle at Leopardstown at Christmas, and then he was beaten by Willie Mullins' smart performer Diakali at Punchestown in January on ground softer than ideal. He then finished a well-beaten fifth of seven runners behind the Triumph Hurdle favourite Our Conor at Leopardstown again and we decided to run him in this race, having had entries in the Triumph also.
We have blinkers on him for the first time, and hopefully they will help him concentrate during the race. As always, this is an ultra competitive juvenile handicap hurdle, however if the ground didn't come up too soft I would be expecting him to run well. Davy Condon is booked to take the ride, and if he takes to the track and the blinkers do the trick I'd be quite hopeful.