Ross O'Sullivan: Bacardys the obvious choice for Frank Ward
The Betway ambassador previews a bumper weekend of festive racing at Newbury and Punchestown, including his picks for the Challow and Frank Ward Hurdle.
We’re in the thick of a very busy period, and it was good that our Theatre World finished second on St Stephen’s Day, beaten by a very good performance from Gordon Elliott’s Isle of Destiny.
Bythesametoken runs for us at Leopardstown in a competitive Christmas Handicap Hurdle (14:35).
He was a good winner on his last start at Navan and has come on plenty for that. He’s in good form at home and we expect him to run his race.
However, it’s a wide-open affair with 28 runners lining up, so we do need some luck on our side.
We also saddle Western Sea in the Rated Novice Chase at Limerick (15:25). He was a faller on his last start when he looked like he had a massive chance had he had not tipped up at the last.
It’s a small field tomorrow but wide open. He’s been schooling well and should go close, granted luck on our side.
Betway Challow Hurdle (Newbury, 15:00)
Thyme Hill will no doubt be short in the betting, but he’s looked very good in two hurdle starts to date and, on all known form, he’s the one they’ve all got to beat.
The Cashel Man , who won at Newbury last time, is clearly on an upward trajectory, but he has got to step up from handicap company to this graded company.
Frank Ward Hurdle (Leopardstown, 14:00)
Barcadys is the obvious choice as he’s just so consistent.
He’s been in great form this season, starting with a good success in November when beating Apple’s Jade. He then failed to give weight to Honeysuckle, who is clearly very talented and is being touted as a Champion Hurdle horse.
Savills Chase (Leopardstown, 15:10)
All eyes are going to be on Kemboy , who is having his first run since winning the Punchestown Gold Cup.
He improved leaps and bounds last season and is at the top of many lists for this year’s Gold Cup candidates. If he reproduces the same level of form that he’s shown previously, then he’s going to be tough to beat.
Presenting Percy ran well in the John Durkan and you can be sure that he’ll be doing all his best work late on. He stayed on well that day over a trip shorter than ideal and should be there or thereabouts at the thick end of this Grade 1.
Sunday at Leopardstown
It looks as though Battleoverdoyen is going to go off a short-priced favourite for the Novice Chase (13:55), but it’s wide open and by no means a penalty kick.
Minello Indo ran well on his chase debut over too short a trip, but we’ll no doubt see the best of him at the big spring festivals.
The horse that I think could be overpriced is the Willie Mullins-trained Carefully Selected .
We didn’t get to see much of him last year as the ground was never as soft as he’d have liked, but he’s had a bit more luck on that front this year.
Katie [Walsh] had him as a young horse and sold him on to Willie, so I know a little bit about him. He was a lovely type then and it is great to now see him running in the top races.
The Matheson Hurdle (14:30) will offer a few more Champion Hurdle clues in what is looking like a wide-open race this year.
Klassical Dream is clearly the flashy and classy horse in the race, but he does have something to prove following his defeat in the Morgiana Hurdle in November. He was a good winner in the Supreme Novices’ at Cheltenham and then backed that up at Punchestown.
I have to add that I think Sharjah is somewhat overlooked. He keeps on improving and is rated 2lb higher than Klassical Dream. He’s got a good record at Leopardstown and I think he’s certainly worth backing each way.