'The Jumps' is really getting going now and like the last few seasons it is Gordon Elliott who has his winter horses out earlier than Willie Mullins; today he runs both Tintangle and Blow By Blow having won with Felix Desjy yesterday.
As with just about every national hunt yard in the country, they could do with some rain which is forecast for the next week and that should be a help to the quality of racing at Down Royal next Friday and Saturday, the first major meeting of the winter season.
Their feature is the JNwine.com Champion Chase which currently has 13 entries but it is easy to see the race cutting up to less than half that. The interesting one to my eye is last year's winner Outlander.
Elliott commented in his national hunt preview elsewhere on the site that his season would be built around the two mid-winter Grade 1 chases at Leopardstown so it was a surprise to see him run so well at Punchestown earlier this month and he will meet the winner Sub Lieutenant on 10lbs better terms next week. I have Balko Des Flos as interesting outsider for the 2019 Gold Cup but he will be first time out here and the 7/1 about Outlander with the Sportsbook looks a fair price.
Galway 12:35 - Course winner Diamond Hill looks overpriced
This is a strong maiden for the time of year with two of the better bumper mares of last year reappearing in the shape of Getaway Katie Mai and Tintangle. The former is hard to knock and has plenty of speed, doing well to come from rear off slow gallops on both her last two starts, winning the last of those at Aintree. Tintangle might be more vulnerable; she has her share of temperament, inclined to tail-flashing and with a high head carriage, but more than that this track and trip may not suit as she looks more of a stayer.
At the prices however Diamond Hill might be the play. A course winner on the flat this summer when she did very well to overcome trouble, her recent form figures over jumps have not been inspiring. There have been some extenuating circumstances though; she looked likely to win when making a bad blunder two out at Listowel on her penultimate run before racing too keenly here last time over a trip that stretches her. Her tendency to be free is a concern but this drop in trip will help as might and she can give the favourite most to do.
Wexford 13:25 - Sometime Soon can step up on Fairyhouse return
The 95-rated flat horse Edelpour has been put in favourite for this maiden hurdle but he has clearly been difficult to train with just three runs since August 2015 and while he ran on the flat recently at Navan, it was only a fair effort. Furthermore, his hurdles runs may look better than they are; he was second to Mengli Khan on debut but was well held and the ones in behind have done little for the form while the best horse to emerge from his Killarney race (Paris Texas) was off a break that day.
Sometime Soon is preferred. He was an expensive failure on his seasonal return at Fairyhouse but despite a slow pace pulled clear with Jan Maat who looked to improve for hurdles, his trainer not one to aim at bumpers, and was conceding eight pounds to the winner. His jumping should be sharper now and I would have made him favourite for this.
Wexford 15:45 - Top-weight Ask Nile has scope to improve
Neddyvaughan is the most likely winner here after quite an impressive success at Fairyhouse last time but it is hard to see where the improvement has come from after 34 starts, seven of them since Padraig Roche took over from his father Christy. Oighear Dubh was at least in the process of providing a boost to the form before running out at Cheltenham on Friday. Gentleman Duke is another that is quite exposed at this point for all that his mark has dropped to a manageable level; he is without a win since 2015 though and this trip might stretch him.
The unexposed horse in the race is Ask Nile who had some good runs in decent novice chases last year, notably when a close third to A Rated at this track which was f0llowed by a second to Rathvinden at Listowel. He mixed it up trip-wise afterwards, running over a variety of distances, but this two-and-a-half miles looks his optimum and there was plenty to like about his recent hurdles run at Limerick where he travelled strongly over three miles before failing to get home.