O’Leary looking for pre-Grand National boost from Petit Mouchoir
Bloomfield could be best suited by conditions in Cork feature
Petit Mouchoir: the grey’s reaction to the Grand National day atmosphere could be more significant to his chances of a first top-flight victory over fences than the opposition. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho
Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown Stud team will hope for a pre-Grand National Grade One boost at Aintree on Saturday.
In contrast to Cheltenham, where he had seven victories, the Ryanair boss has failed to hit the Aintree target this week. One of those Cheltenham victors, Balko Des Flos, could finish only fourth to Politologue in Friday’s Melling Chase.
However with five Grand National starters, including one of the ante-post favourites Tiger Roll, O’Leary has an opportunity to emulate Rock The World’s 2016 victory in the big race.
Before it Petit Mouchoir is expected to start an odds-on favourite for Gigginstown in the Grade One Doom Bar Maghull Chase.
The omens were not good for this former top class hurdler even when he was going to post for last month’s Arkle at Cheltenham as he was much too keen for Davy Russell. It was a similar story in the race, and it was little surprise to see Petit Mouchoir’s old rival Footpad come through in the closing stages to win.
How the grey reacts to the Grand National day atmosphere could be more significant to his chances of a first top-flight victory over fences than the opposition.
O’Leary and trainer Henry De Bromhead also give Identity Thief a first try at three miles in the Ryanair Stayers Hurdle. Considering how disappointing Identity Thief has been in general over the last year, his Champion Hurdle effort was quite encouraging. He made mistakes but was still only a dozen lengths behind Buveur D’Air in fourth. If he properly stays the three miles in soft ground the sole Irish challenger could contend.
High Expectations is Gordon Elliott’s hope in the conditional jockeys’ event where Donagh Meyler will try to emulate his Cheltenham victory on Blow By Blow.
Davy Russell will be back in home action at Tramore on Sunday, and his book of rides includes Lieutenant Colonel in the conditions chase.
The former Grade One hurdler is opposed by Willie Mullins’s Pylonthepressure who finished fifth to his stable companion Rathvinden in Cheltenham’s four-miler despite a round of jumping that bordered on gruesome. That Katie Walsh managed to get him around testifies to the plus she is for Baie Des Iles’s chance in the National.
Tramore’s jumping challenge is a lot different though, and considering Pylonthepressure was able to win over two miles prior to the festival he may emerge on top under Paul Townend.
Sunday’s home feature is the Listed Noblesse Stakes at Cork’s flat programme where forecast weekend rain could turn ground conditions very testing indeed.
Clear Skies showed significant progress on the all-weather through the winter, and is rated to win the five-runner highlight.
The surface will be very different, though, and Bloomfield’s progressive profile through three starts in 2017, including a maiden success on very soft going, makes her a valid alternative.
Jessica Harrington runs Escapability in the opening maiden, and there was plenty of encouragement in his first start of the season when a running on third to Bobby Boy at Naas.