It's Navan for a seven-race jumps card this afternoon and Tony Keenan has found a pair of horses to be interested in...
"Monbeg Notorious seemed to achieve more than any of them in blowing apart the Thyestes and landing a gamble in the process. A slog on soft ground is clearly what he wants and he comes here on top of his game."
Willie Mullins has written the book on how to successfully prepare horses for Cheltenham in the last decade and it's been a largely conventional narrative: Run horse in a trial over a similar distance to target race. Win prep race with improvement to come. Arrive at the Festival ready to run a career-best.
Jessica Harrington has preferred to take a quirkier approach however. Sizing John's campaign last season was anything but by-the-book as she quickly brought him up in trip from Christmas to March, the horse hitting every marker and landing ultimate pay dirt in the Gold Cup. The aggressive method hasn't worked as well with him in 2017/18 with a quick return after his John Durkan win leaving questions to be answered but it hasn't stopped the trainer being adventurous in campaigning Supasundae and Our Duke.
She found an open Irish Champion Hurdle with a vulnerable fading star in Faugheen for Supasundae, taking the view that the two-mile trip would help sharpen his jumping. It was similar with Our Duke at Gowran yesterday as he just about coped with the drop in distance to beat Presenting Percy who was in receipt of seven pounds.
In many ways, these wins raised as many questions as answers about their Cheltenham prospects. Supasundae has now been beaten on his two runs at three miles and did his last win suggest he may be too quick to win a Stayers' Hurdle? Did Our Duke have too hard a race on heavy ground yesterday and leave his Gold Cup behind in Kilkenny? I don't have the answers to these questions though the odds will, as ever, dictate whether or not I am willing to trust the Harrington method.
If you think all this seems an unnecessarily long-winded lead-in to today's bets, you would be correct: this afternoon's Navan card is a tough punting medium. The Dublin Racing Festival was great but the programme before and since has suffered and I don't like that. As with most spectator sports, racing is a weekend-based leisure pursuit and I would prefer to see a spread of good racing across a number of Sundays rather than everything condensed into two days. Perhaps these big event meetings are the way sports are going but uncompetitive racing makes finding bets hard.
Navan 16:00 - Notorious can follow up Thyestes with another won
For good or ill, I have decided that the form of the Woodland Park 100 Novice Chase won by Moulin A Vent is poor and want to oppose it here. The times, both overall and sectionals, do not reflect well on the participants and visually it didn't look great; the poor-jumping winner was able to come from a seemingly impossible position (that he had put himself into) as Jury Duty tired or idled in the finish. Mossback might have been going to win when he came down at the last but has to overcome a relatively quick return off a fall.
Monbeg Notorious seemed to achieve more than any of them in blowing apart the Thyestes and landing a gamble in the process. A slog on soft ground is clearly what he wants and he comes here on top of his game. Provided the visor works again a second time - and there is no reason to think it won't as he has worn headgear in each of last five starts - prices of 2.56/4 or so look reasonable.
Navan 16:30 - Mill Quest to enjoy return to hurdles
Lackaneen Leader is about the right favourite in her first handicap but she did get the run of the race from the front last time and her stamina for this trip is not guaranteed. It could be worth opposing her with a small win and place bet on Mill Quest. Chasing has not gone well for Terence O'Brien's mare but that looks down to a faulty jumping technique and running in races she cannot win against opposition that are much better than her.
When she has been able to jump ok, there have been glimmers of form and this is more like her grade and crucially back over hurdles. A mark of 100 is certainly one she can compete off - she was placed in better races than this off 102 behind Duke Cass and Definite Ruby last winter - and may be able to spring a surprise now.
2018 P+L: -13 points
1 Point Back Monbeg Notorious @ 2.56/4 or bigger in the Navan 16:00
0.5 Point Back Mill Quest @ 13.012/1 or bigger in the Navan 16:30
0.5 Point Place Back Mill Quest @ 3.39/4 or bigger in the Navan 16:30