The Grade 3 Surehaul Mercedes-Benz Novice Hurdle highlights today’s card – here are Martin Pennington’s thoughts on that and the other races on the Clonmel card:
More Madness is taken to put a disappointing start to his hurdling career behind him by take this 2m Maiden Hurdle for Terence O’Brien. A point scorer at Bandon back in February 2012 he contested a couple of decent bumpers behind Buckers Bridge at Gowran and Minella For Value at Cork prior to getting his head in front at the third time of asking on good ground at Limerick in May. He’s been tried over both 2m and 2m 6f as a hurdle and though the ground is a slight concerned he won his point on soft and the drop back to 2m could be just what this fellow needs with the booking of Paul Townend for the ride particularly eyecatching.
Annie Power is very hard to oppose here given that she comes into the race unbeaten in four starts, three bumpers on a similar surface to this (including a match at Listowel in September) and a 2m Thurles Maiden Hurdle for which she was sent off a ½ favourite. Formerly trained by Jim Bolger for her bumper wins she looks a very classy mare and can take this on her way to better things.
Ventura Capital was sent off joint-favourite for his latest start over 2m 3f in a conditions hurdle at Limerick on heavy over Christmas. He had to give best to the Willie Mullins trained 155 rated Chaser Prince De Beauchene and time may well prove that that particular horse is as good over hurdles as he is over the larger obstacles. Prior to that he had easily taken a 2m 2f Maiden Hurdle on soft to heavy at Wexford three weeks earlier and he shapes as if this step up in trip to 2m 6f is likely to suit.
The eleven year old Pretty Happy is taken to score here, the daughter of Shernazar is the oldest horse in the race though that shouldn’t deter backers of the Clonmel regular (her thirteen starts here have resulted in her passing the post first three times and placing on four other occasions) as, her disappointing last run at Punchestown aside she’s been running well over further recently and underfoot conditions are likely to bring her stamina into play here. The booking of leading amateur Mikey Fogarty also catches the eye for a trainer for whom he’s already ridden a hurdles winner for from just two rides (one hurdles and one chaser).
Bob Lingo clearly found the 3m trip and Grade 1 company against him when last seen out in the James Nicholson Wine Merchants Champion Chase at Down Royal back in November but he’d had a highly successful summer prior to that with a win over 2m 6f at Killarney over hurdles and a relatively easy win in the Galway Plate back in August to his name. He went up 11lbs for that Galway Plate success and he looks to have been found a good opportunity to step up to conditions chases here with the drop back to 2 1/2m likely to suit him and he has a good record going right handed also (all bar one of his six wins has been right handed). The application of the hood for the first time on this 11yo also takes the eye and he has his usual tongue tie applied (out of the frame just three times from ten starts when sporting it).
The Patrick Griffin trained Beneficial gelding Twentypoundluck has had just the one start over the larger obstacles so far, that being at Musselburgh early last month and he put up a bold showing from the front prior to being hampered and ultimately being beaten nineteen lengths by the 135 rated Viva Colonia and the 130 rated Sydney Paget who have both scored since. The fourth that day Los Nadis was a 122 rated hurdler who’s run well back in that sphere since and it’s worth noting that Twentypoundluck may well have finished closer to the front two but for being hampered. James Reveley pays his first visit to Clonmel and takes three rides and it’s interesting that this is one of them. The drop back in trip doesn’t look likely to inconvenience and whilst this is the softest ground Twentypoundluck will have raced on he looks likely to handle it being by Beneficial.
At eleven years old the Robert Tyner trained Castleview Mills isn’t getting any younger and whilst he was disappointing on his latest start on heavy ground in a Ladies Open at Nenagh under Aine O’Connor it’s worth noting how well he was running at Limerick over 2m 6f on heavy the time before. Castleview Mills was upsides the leaders jumping the second last when he unshipped jockey Declan Queally. He was in the hands of Sinead O’Sullivan that day and has since moved to the top yard of Robert Tyner’s. Many of these have been contesting Maiden’s and Winners races and whilst he’s the senior member of the field he has been running in Open company and already has two solid runs here to his name (one in this race three years ago and the other a Beginners Chase back in March 2008). The ground won’t provide any issues for him and the drop back to 2 1/2m should suit also.