2/12/2017 Moira (heavy) 4yo maiden: This has been a decidedly average maiden over the years with the 2011 winner, Billy Twyford (Thomond O’Mara-129) and Baby Bach (132), from 2014, being the best of 12 previous winners for Nicky Henderson and Stephen Crawford -who held on to Baby Bach – on the track. At least four divisional winners never managed to win a race under Rules of any sort. Last year’s winner, Big Meadow, has failed to re-appear, yet all this previous history may count for nought as Nicky Henderson decided to pay £150,000 for this year’s winner Beyondthestorm. Beyondthestorm (Denis Murphy) by Flemensfirth Unraced (R92) “He stays all day and really jumps well in the soft ground.” There were at least half-a-dozen fancied horses here with Beyondthestorm and Presented Well battling out a very close finish. Sent all the way north to Co. Down by Denis Murphy, this was a battling debut from Beyondthestorm. The son of Flemensfirth should improve for this hard-fought win and will now head to the sales where a successful track career should follow. He looked likely to be beaten approaching the last but battled back gamely after the final obstacle. Pedigree: £150,000 Cheltenham December 2017 and €24,000 as a 3yo store; a 6th foal, he is a half-brother to very modest 3m1f hunter chase winner Kimora and two siblings who never managed to win; his dam is an unraced sister to bumper winner Culmore Native (100), a half-sister to bumper/2m-2m4f hurdle winner Finns Cross (135) and 3m hurdle winner Coldwinters (110) out of bumper/2m hurdle winner. Pedigrees are a funny business and with a weak immediate family, £150,000 seems a lot to pay for Beyondthestorm. Henderson is betting on Beyonthestorm emulating the 2011 winner, Billy Twyford, who won a bumper and three handicap hurdles for him in 2012-2014. A note should be taken of the second-placed horse Presented Well (by Oscar and rated 91) who was trained by Warren Ewing and just beaten a neck. A faller on his first start when travelling well, he is out of a Presenting mare and was bought for a cheap-looking €9,000 as a 3yo. In a race that saw six co-favourites, he wasn’t particularly fancied so this run augurs well for the future and I would argue his performance was equally as impressive as the winner. 5yo maiden: The 2015 and 2016 winners of this contest were poor but the literal “track record” of previous winners prior to this had been smart with 2014 winner, Stilletto (141) winning three for Nicholls and four of the previous six winners all scored under Rules including the very useful Buckers Bridge who won a division in 2011. This year’s winner Ballymillen has been awarded a mark of just 85 after a fortunate success and for this reason I shall not be paying much attention to his future career. I am more interested in the last fence faller Cosmic Flight (by Winged Love), trained by Stuart Crawford. As a first foal out of a modest bumper/2m5f and 2m6f hurdle winner he should be capable of winning in average company in the UK. 3/12/2017 Mainstown (Co. Tipperary) (Soft-heavy) This fixture resonates with me as it takes place barely one mile from my front door and, in 2010, at an alternative local venue, I saw a horse named Baby Shine win the 4yo maiden and she was awarded a mark of 85 which is the highest rating awarded to only three mares in the autumn series since 2008. It took me some time to realize the winner was actually a mare and she had performed the very rare feat of beating the boys (castrati?) and she went on to taste success seven times on the track for Lucy Wadham and achieved a rating of 137. Lesson learned and banked! On balance one would have to say this is a significant maiden as between 2008 and 2012 there were nine divisional winners and they all tasted success under Rules. Curiously, from five winners between 2013 and 2016 only one winner has emerged although that has turned out to be Joesph O’Brien’s useful Young Turk but I think Clondaw Fonz from 2015 (Alan King) and last year’s winner Ramling Rector (Warren Greatrex) will certainly win races. Overall, I think the trends would point to a good solid handicapper being produced here. 4yo maiden: (Division I) “He has a huge engine.” Twenty seven runners declared for the 4yo maiden necessitating a divide and each division was run in the same time but that counted for little in the sales ring two weeks later. One of those comparative auction results to keep in mind through the effluxion of time. Straight Red (Colin Bowe) by Westerner Unraced (R93) This was a competitive renewal with Straight Red leading from pillar to post against rivals from the usual good stables and I was also struck by two contestants from yards not very prominent with 4yo maiden runners (see below).. Yet another juvenile winner for Colin Bowe who seems to have a lot of talented inmates, he shrugged off his challengers in the straight and won impressively. I like how he appeared to travel so easily to the last despite horses lining up to take him on. He enters the reckoning for England as a horse with a bright future. Pedigree: €50,000 3yo, £300,000 Cheltenham December 2017; sixth foal; half-brother to bumper/2m-3m hurdle winner Wintered Well-5 wins for Jennie Candlish (120); dam (Selkirk) placed 1m-1m4f (R83), half-sister to 1m-1m6f Flat/useful GB/US jumper Bow Strada out of smart Spanish mare La Strada (stayed 1m4f). €50,000 is clearly an expensive store to introduce to pointing – reflecting current trends – and resale value clearly depends on a very impressive subsequent victory. Bowe was effusive in the immediate aftermath explaining that Barry O’Neill could scarcely hold on to the winner and that he travelled and jumped very well. Overall, he opined, “an unreal performance”. Jonjo O’Neill believes him and parted with £300,000 to bring him to Jackdaws Castle. 4yo maiden: (Division II) Global Jackpot (Tom Keating) by Flying Legend 7- (R92) Pedigree: €6,200 foal, €23,000 3yo, £90,000 Cheltenham December 2017; second foal; dam placed in modest 2m7f/3m1f hurdles (R90), half-sister to useful 2m-2m4f hurdle/chase winner Mon Villez (won 6 for Henderson R142) out of half-sister to 10.5f and 1m4f Group 1 winner Epervier Bleu. This race was run in the same time as the opening division and involved three horses that ran well . The winner had a previous pipe-opener last season at Bartlemy but on this occasion Global Jackpot displayed nice ability when quickening well in the straight and denied the favourite, High Sparrow, by less than a length. He looks a likely winner under Rules also. Keating expressed the view that they always liked this horse, he worked well at home and that his poor first run remained a mystery. He joins Gordon Elliott with a price tag of £90,000. Incidentally, the second horse, High Sparrow, trained by Joseph O’Brien who trains nearby is already a bumper winner having scored at Limerick over Christmas. Certain judges were of the opinion that these were strong maidens and the horse that takes my interest in Division I is Donie Hassett’s Jarveys Plate. He was third to Straight Red on his debut and was withdrawn from the Cheltenham December Sale. It will be interesting to see where this son of Getaway heads next. He’s related to siblings rated 126 and 116 so the pedigree is sound. In light of High Sparrow’s decent form subsequently I would also add Aidan Fitzgerald’s Do Not Disturb to the mix of horses-to-follow as he finished just behind High Sparrow and appeared to be staying on at the death. 5yo maiden: A low-profile race that might pay to follow closely. This has been a surprisingly poor contest over the past three years throwing up three horses that failed to score under Rules. It’s possible these 5yo’s are playing in the last-chance saloon and the quality of participant is deteriorating as their sixth birthdays approach. 2013 saw Colin Bowe’s Gold Patrol remain in training at his Milestone base after he failed to secure a buyer and he managed to win three races under Rules for connections. Prior to 2013 there were divides in each of the previous three years with wins for relatively low-key handlers and five of the six winners scored under Rules mostly in Ireland. Richard Morrissey’s Bach To Whitingbay and Seamus Roche’s Jim Will Fix It would be cases in point. Le Braye (Peter Flood) by Court Cave see below (R90) “He is unbelievable to jump, he was savage today.” I have to say that a rating of 90 looks generous for a horse that was recently bought out of Dan Skelton’s yard after a disappointing “nine-zero” career in the UK – he was a €21,000 3yo purchase. He is not without a modicum of form in England and he would not be the first horse to improve on past disappointments following a confidence-booster in a point. The career of Jim Will Fix It (referenced in the race’s past history above) helps prove this point. Le Braye’s last UK mark was 100 so he may start off in the mid-low 90’s here and could be of interest. If he stays with Flood and he goes racing “proper” I will be paying attention! Flood also told us after the race that Le Braye had been working well at home so I hope he goes back inside the rails with him. Even though I have been bemoaning the lack of depth in this race in recent times, and as it is unfashionable winners that are a delicacy of mine, I definitely want to be with the runner-up, Longtide, from this race. He was a persistent tip in my neighbourhood on raceday and connections were a little unlucky to meet a former 102-rated performer coming home to Ireland. A bad mistake three out didn’t help his chances. He has a decent enough pedigree out of a winning dam (R115 for Paul Nicholls) who was very well related and one of Longtide’s half-brother (by Presenting) cost Jonjo O’Neill £90,000 as a three-year-old and was second in two hurdles (R118). That mark would be very acceptable for a (hopefully) progressive Longtide after he’s won a couple of low-grade handicaps possibly in the care of his point handler David O’Brien! 3/12/2017 Ballindenisk (Soft-heavy) 4yo maiden: This maiden has always been a good race and there are a string of track winners going back over the last 10 years. Good horses like Romaneso, Hard To Swallow, Danandy, Al Alfa, Carraig Mor and Indian Castle have all been winners with the divide in 2016 already producing Gordon Elliott’s bumper winner Empire Burleque and Tom George has charge of another bumper winner in Truckers Lodge. Baron De Midleton (John O’Donovan) by Brian Boru F66- (R92) John O’Donovan is based in Shanballymore in Co. Cork and from very few runners in all categories he has a very decent record of training a remarkable 5 winners from 8 runners in the past three seasons but I daresay he is a relatively anonymous figure to most. O’Donovan’s son, Chris, had a very good novice season in 2015/16 and is no mean jockey. I really recommend keeping an eye on future O’Donovan trained runners in general over the coming seasons as he clearly knows his stuff. Baron De Midleton had three previous uninspiring starts last term and he led two out to score for the trainer’s son Chris. This son of ex-Coolmore Brian Boru was always handy to the pace. He led from two out to beat newcomer Coole Well. Some judges reckon he has the speed for a bumper and will certainly win races across the water. His sire will have suppressed his value. Pedigree: €3,000 Tatts Ire. yearling, £32,000 Cheltenham December 2017; first foal; dam well beaten for Venetia Williams in bumpers/hurdles/points, half-sister to 2m4f-3m hurdle/chase winner Dantes King (won handicap chase off 131 for G Elliott) out of sister to smart bumper winner Blue Dante, family of high-class staying chaser Marlbrough. It was difficult to discern details on the winner or future plans but he looks a cheap enough buy for Phil Martin at just £32,000 and, based on the record of previous winners he will more than hold his own in the UK. As it happens John O’Donovan trained the 5yo maiden winner Awbeg Prive to win here in 2016 and he has already made his mark as a bumper winner for Michael John O’Connor. “It’s a funny old game” equally applies to horse racing as football and winning connections will be bemused to see that their immediate victim, Coole Well, trained by Rathbarry Stud’s Paul Cashman, has been sold on to Ben Pauling for £105,000 and has already ran third in a Newbury bumper which looks smart form. I also have to give a mention to the third horse, Robbies Magic, – a newcomer, similar to the runner-up – trained by Ray Hackett and he was backed into favourtism although he did finish a well-beaten third by the front two. Of the three, I would venture that Coole Well has by far the better pedigree if that counts for anything. 5yo maiden: Quite simply, this is a maiden winner to follow with all previous seven winners showing very nice levels of form on the racecourse. The afore-mentioned Awbeg Prince (2016) won his first start in a bumper and the two best winners have been Battle Of Shiloh (won 4 for Tom George) and Grouse Lodge who’s won 7 for Donald McCain. .Mount Rushmoore (Richard Black) by Shantou Unraced (R89) In a close finish, the winner’s jumping wasn’t perfect to say the least – he was completely wrong after the second last – but he showed a good attitude to beat Supremely Lucky. He is a striking son of Shantou and cost €34,000 as a 4yo. He strikes one as a staying chaser over longer distances and has some maturing to do in his development. Pedigree: €34,000 4yo, £28,000 Cheltenham December 2017 (Colin Tizzard); fifth foal; half-brother to 2m2f-2m3f hurdle/chase winner Who’s That-modest, consistent handicap hurdler for Liam Cusack; dam showed little bumper/points/2m4f hunter chase, half-sister to 2m4f hunter chase winner Ever Onward (L Cusack 102) out of bumper/2m Flat winner. It is something of a rarity today to see store horses bought as 4yo’s but Mount Rushmoore has already finished a 15L third (R99) in a Chepstow bumper in early January for new trainer Colin Tizzard. As I mentioned in October after Black had trained another 5yo maiden winner in Shantaluze, he seems a very shrewd trainer with an exceptional strike-rate with his runners. The obvious horse for the note-book amongst the also-rans is James Dullea’s Buck A Trend (by Getaway) who held every chance at the last before unseating a few strides after. He has already run in a couple of bumpers and a recent third at Cork for Dullea suggests he is one to follow. The race commentator seemed to favour the runner-up Supremely Lucky in a tight finish but, alas, he turned out to be supremely unlucky! Compensation awaits.