SHAMROCK Sat: It may be the day after Cheltenham, but there’s no time for resting as we move on to Saturday’s meeting at Thurles.
⭕ A seven-race card, likely to be run in testing ground conditions, begins with a mares’ beginners chase (1:55pm) over 2m2f. Willie Mullins and Paul Townend have carried all before them at Cheltenham this week, but they may not immediately return to the winners’ enclosure now back on home soil. Pont Aval has had several chances already over fences and was a much bigger price than Choice Of Words when they met at Naas in January. While Martin Brassil’s mare didn’t jump well and fell five from home that day, she has some high-class form to her name over hurdles and surely it’s only a matter of time before she makes an impact over the larger obstacles.
⭕ Race two is the feature on the card, the Grade 3 Pierce Molony Memorial Novice Chase (2:30pm) over 2m2f. Indiana Jones stuck to his task well last time when beating Flame Bearer to win a Grade 3 at Navan on his last start. The latter did himself no favours with his jumping on that occasion and looks a big threat if he can polish up that part of his game, but it may be worth sticking with Indiana Jones to confirm the form. Mouse Morris’ son of Blue Bresil looks a strong stayer and should be suited to this test on soft ground.
⭕ A 2m4½f handicap chase (3:05pm) follows. This is a competitive little heat where a case can be made for many. Lower down the weights it might be worth taking a chance that Sam Curling’s Ishan can go well on chasing debut. He’s been in good form over hurdles recently and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see this son of Voiladenuo take a step forward now switched to fences.
⭕ Next up is a 2-mile opportunity maiden hurdle (3:40pm). This isn’t a strong contest and while Quirke’s Gate has been beaten in all three hurdles starts so far, he’s run into some high-class rivals, notably when chasing home Hunters Yarn on debut. This is much easier and this well-bred six-year-old should have the class to take advantage. The Barry Connell-Michael O’Sullivan combination were successful at Cheltenham on Tuesday, and they can make a return to the winners’ enclosure here.
⭕ The 4:15pm is an interesting end of season hurdle event over 2m7f, which sees a clash of former Grade 1-winning hurdlers, Summerville Boy and Asterion Forlonge. The first mentioned won the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 2018, when trained by Tom George, and has recently switched to Henry de Bromhead. He finished second behind Stayers’ Hurdle third Teahupoo in the Galmoy Hurdle last time out and could improve on that. However, it’s Willie Mullins’ Asterion Forlonge who makes most appeal. This nine-year-old has had something of a checkered career and is often let down by his jumping, but is high-class on his day. Connections thought about a Stayers’ Hurdle tilt with him, but evidently opted for this contest instead, and he’s the type of quirky character that might just appreciate a return to hurdles.
⭕ A handicap hurdle (4:50pm) over the same 2m7f trip follows. The key form-line to this contest might be the handicap run at Punchestown in December, when Ballyglass Beauty finished ahead of Cher Why Not. Liam Cusack’s runner is now better off at the weights and has the advantage of youth on his side too, so looks to hold a fair chance of recording a second career win.
⭕ The concluding National Hunt Flat Race (5:20pm) looks an interesting contest with several powerful stables represented. Henry de Bromhead’s Authorized gelding Factual Fact should be respected, but the eye is drawn to the jockey booking of Jamie Codd on Stuart Crawford’s Fourtowns. The County Antrim-based trainer won this race in 2020 with Codd in the saddle, and the pair have an excellent 67 percent strike rate when teaming up.