Two big handicaps dominate the Irish scene today and Tony Keenan believes Willie Mullins holds the key to both...
"Miles To Memphis had one of the worst draws that day and was trapped wide for much of the race which didn’t help and crucially none of the four that beat him at Galway re-oppose."
For punters at least, Willie Mullins might be the most important person in Irish racing between November and April and he is starting his winter season three weeks early as he trains two of the key horses this afternoon in Gustavas Vassa and Total Recall. Both are new to the yard, following on from early switchers like Thousand Stars and more recent ones like Lagostovegas, but the former might be more vulnerable in the Irish Cesarewitch.
Not only is he by a sprinter from a speedy family and unproven on the ground, but he had his last run with Andy Oliver just 90 days ago. It is one thing to improve a new arrival off a long break, quite another to do the same with an animal that has been in training elsewhere for a large portion of the season. Total Recall has at least had the benefit of not running since February and an improvement from him seems more likely.
A large proportion of this field have been running in similar races all season with varying degrees of success and it might pay to go with a new look in the form of handicap debutante Hushing. After six starts, she has untapped potential, particularly over the sprint trips that have brought about improvement after a summer break.
She was unlucky not to win on her first start back at Fairyhouse, meeting trouble when closing in the final furlong, and the time of her dead-heat win at Tipperary suggests she is well-in off 73. Perhaps six furlongs will prove her best trip in time but this stiff five should be fine for the moment.
The case against Gustavas Vassa has been stated above and a few of the other fancied runners could be worth opposing too; Abyssinian looks harshly treated on what he has done, Snow Falcon had no real excuses last time while Bhutan has been out of sorts of late. Consequently, this could set up for a big-priced winner with Miles To Memphis standing out at the prices.
He's been a revelation since switching to the flat this summer which wasn't a surprise given his poor hurdling technique and his fifth in the big qualified riders race at Galway is really strong form, perhaps the strongest of the entire meeting. Not only did Whiskey Sour follow up impressively later on that week but Swamp Fox and Lagostovegas have showed up well over hurdles since.
Miles To Memphis had one of the worst draws that day and was trapped wide for much of the race which didn't help and crucially none of the four that beat him at Galway re-oppose. His last run at Bellewstown can be forgiven as it was a slowly-run mile and a half which is an insufficient test and in any case that race has worked out. I'm suggesting backing him win-only due to the Exchange-based nature of the column but it would be remiss not to point out that plenty of firms, not least the Betfair Sportsbook, are going five places on the race.
This 0-80 handicap represents a significant class drop for Try Again who shaped well off a break last time at Naas when third to a progressive pair in Pincheck and Espoir D'Soleil. The handicapper has left him on 72 for that run which is more than fair with improvement for fitness to come and he has the benefit of one of the better jockeys in the race in Sean Davis who still gets to claim four pounds. Hasselnott, another in the field taking a big drop in grade, could prove the main danger though the suspicion is that he prefers better ground.
0.5 Point Back Hushing @ [8.6] or bigger in the Navan 16:10
0.5 Point Place Back Hushing @ [2.9] or bigger in the Navan 16:10
1.5 Point Back Miles To Memphis @ [29.0] or bigger in the Navan 17:15
1 Point Back Try Again @ [9.0] or bigger in the Navan 17:45
1 Point Place Back Try Again @ [3.0] or bigger in the Navan 17:45
2017 P+L: +0.8 points