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It hasn't been clicking for me, and I completely got it wrong yesterday as the Irish Raider drifted in the market to around 11/2 and won with plenty in hand. I didn't expect that kind of performance off top weight from a 400+ day absence, so fair play to connections on getting him spot-on for that race.
A bit of a late developer it seems, but RACKS CROSS goes over fences for the first time in her rules career at the age of eight. There have clearly been hiccups along the way for her as she started her professional career quite late into his life, where jumps horses are normally going at 4-5 years of age. However, jumping a fence is clearly something she was born to do, and she will be better over the larger obstacles than the hurdles which she has seemed to struggle with over the last year or so.
Racks Cross is bred to jump fences and she proved that when winning over the flags in a PTP in Ireland by 8L, which was at the fourth time of asking. She has put in some decent runs before that with two placed efforts the time before, so it's a code she is clearly a lot more comfortable over.
Today is the first time she'll be tried over 3m since her PTP days, which looks a natural positive for her chase debut. An opening mark of 79 looks reasonable in a race which is open for an improver to go and win. Brian Hughes is a noticeable booking for the newly formed Harriet Graham & Gary Rutherford training partnership. We all know how good Brian is, so it's of notice that they have booked him for Racks Cross' first run over fences, almost suggesting a big run is expected.
On the face of it, Saint Roi is the one they all have to beat with him being the form horse in the race. He has finished behind Honeysuckle for most of last season, including a fourth in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham. He's clearly a talented horse, who isn't quite a Grade 1 horse, so will find this a big drop in grade and should be tough to beat. However, I think the 7yo lightly raced Mare that Willie Mullins has entered looks a very big danger to Saint Roi.
SHEWEARSITWELL shouldn't be inconvenienced by the drop in trip, as she has a high cruising speed over the longer distances, and has a decent turn of foot. Paul Townend takes the ride, which doesn't say much as Mark Walsh would always be riding the J P McManus horse, but what is interesting is the fact that Willie puts her in this race, in a race where he has done extremely well in the past. He has Saint Roi in this as well, but it speaks volumes that he is willing to put the Mare in this when she is wrong at the weights with her stablemate. He must clearly think she is going to run a big race in this and be tough to beat.
Going back to the form of Saint Roi, I think it isn't bulletproof. Honeysuckle is clearly a very good Mare, one of the best in recent years, but there have been signs that she is on the decline even though she is winning her races and winning them well. So the fact Saint Roi is 8-10L behind doesn't exactly fill me with confidence that if he turns up in this, he'll win. I think at the odds he is worth taking on.