Harry Fry: Melrose Boy is crying out for a step up at Sandown
The leading National Hunt trainer looks ahead to a busy weekend across the UK and Ireland and also reflects on a sad 10 days for racing.
It was much more like it from Rosemary Russet at Wincanton on Thursday.
Having been not quite right at Fontwell on her previous start, she ran well to finish second and hopefully next time she can get her head back in front.
She had a breathing op over the summer and applying the tongue tie for that last run seems to have been the final piece of the jigsaw.
Sandown on Saturday
I’ll be at Sandown on Saturday with Melrose Boy in the Grade 3 handicap hurdle (3.00pm).
Fontwell was a very straightforward task and he came out of it A1.
We’ve been very happy with him since and are looking forward to stepping him up in trip on ground that we know he handles.
Looking back on his form and you’d have to think he can be very competitive.
His third at Newbury earlier in the season didn’t do him justice.
He wasn’t fully wound up for that, which was probably my fault as I ran him too soon after picking up a cut in his Cheltenham win.
Hopefully we’re still on an upward curve as you need to have a bit in hand to win a race like this.
I think he’s probably crying out for a step up in trip like this and I wouldn’t swap him for too many in the race.
Thankfully I thought the biggest danger, Westend Story, didn’t end up running.
There looks to have been good money for Topofthegame, Emma Lavelle’s Flemcara has won his last three and Golan Fortune has been in good form too, so, as you’d expect for a £100,000 handicap, there are plenty in with chances.
It will be fiercely competitive.
While he holds an Albert Bartlett entry, we know he likes cut in the ground and he’s very much a chaser for next year.
We’ll see how tomorrow goes and take it from there.
Lingfield on Saturday
American Gigolo makes his second appearance on the Flat in the Betway Live Casino Maiden Stakes (4.15pm).
He just got a little bit unbalanced going down the hill turning into the straight last time and only just failed to reel in the winner.
Hopefully with the experience under his belt he can go one better.
This comes just a fortnight later but running on the all-weather is a bit different to running on heavy ground over hurdles.
He won’t be back over hurdles until we get the ground, while running him on the Flat also gives us options over the summer.
Dublin Racing Festival
Irish racing is very competitive at the moment.
Most of the novices in Ireland are favourite for the novice races at Cheltenham, so it’s understandable for UK trainers to avoid taking them on now when we’re going to have to do that in March.
However, from our point of view, the two races we’re going for out there are absolutely ideal and hugely valuable prizes.
We’ve had this meeting on the calendar for Hell’s Kitchen (4.10pm, Sunday) since he won on Boxing Day.
The form of that run has been franked with Mister Whitaker winning at Cheltenham on Trials Day but that was five weeks ago and we’ve still got to go out and run our race.
Switching him back to a left-handed track should suit but, as with all the racing at Leopardstown this weekend, it looks hugely competitive.
Canelie wears a tongue tie for the first time in the mares’ handicap hurdle (12.40pm)
It’s a very valuable race and we want to do everything we can to help our chances.
Niall Madden got off her after her win at Taunton and just felt that she did it nicely that day but, moving forward, a tongue tie would help.
She’ll definitely need to step up again, but seems to have gone forward in her homework and hopefully she can continue to progress.
I’m hoping we see Faugheen back to his brilliant best too and the Irish Gold Cup is going to be a fascinating race as well.
Overall I think it will be a great weekend of racing that will either make the Cheltenham picture a little clearer, or muddy the waters further!
Sad 10 days for racing
Lastly, following on from Richard Woollacott last week, it’s been a very sad 10 days for racing with the passing of Malcolm Jefferson and Willie Codd and my condolences go to the families of both.