Petit Mouchoir O’Leary’s hope for Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle
Henry De Bromhead aiming to land a second Grade One success with Gigginstown hope
Barry Geraghty riding Don’t Touch It, left, clears the last to pip Petit Mouchoir to victory at the Punchestown festival last April. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images
Henry De Bromhead has already landed a Grade One prize this season with one of the 60 horses Michael O’Leary removed from Willie Mullins in September and he could try and make it two with Petit Mouchoir at Newcastle on Saturday.
The in-form Co Waterford trainer scored in last year’s Stan James Fighting Fifth Hurdle for O’Leary with Identity Thief and current indications are that Petit Mouchoir is the most likely to carry the famous Gigginstown Stud colours in this weekend’s top-flight feature.
Apples’s Jade is also among eight entries currently still in the Fighting Fifth although Gigginstown’s Eddie O’Leary said: “I would think at the moment that Petit Mouchoir will be the one to go to Newcastle. It’s not set in stone but there is the Hatton’s Grace at Fairyhouse the following week as an option for Apple’s Jade if we want it.”
Both Apple’s Jade and Petit Mouchoir finished behind Rashaan in a Grade Two at Down Royal earlier this month.
Significantly however, Petit Mouchoir, despite being only third on that occasion, is a general 9-4 second-favourite in Fighting Fifth betting behind the market leader, Sceau Royal.
Along with Gordon Elliott, De Bromhead has been the main trainer to benefit from Gigginstown’s split with Mullins and he made an immediate Grade One impact when Valseur Lido impressively landed the JNwine Champion Chase at Down Royal.
Hennessey Gold Cup
That contributed to an overall tally of 44 winners in Ireland so far this National Hunt season, only five short of De Bromhead’s previous best haul during the 2014-15 campaign. Valseur Lido will run next at Christmas.
“He’ll be entered for the two big three-mile races, the King George and the Lexus: a decision will be made nearer the time. He won’t run again until then,” De Bromhead has confirmed.
Gigginstown also have three entries left in Saturday’s Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury – Empire of Dirt, Wounded Warrior and Outlander – but while no final decision has been taken, Eddie O’Leary indicated it’s unlikely any of the trio will travel.
Instead Gigginstown’s big handicap focus this weekend could be on Sunday’s €100,000 Ladbrokes Troytown Chase at Navan where they have eight possible starters after the five-day forfeit stage.
“Hopefully we’ll have a few runners. There are a few towards the top [of the ratings] but we’d like a couple below them to get in too,” added Eddie O’Leary.
The O’Leary team have half of the 14 entries left in the Monksfield Novice Hurdle on the same Navan card. The Grade Three contest was the latest race to feature under the new Rule 98 which allows an extra 45-minute entry period if there are originally less than ten horses left in.
Gigginstown’s list of contenders includes Death Duty, a course bumper winner last winter, who won his first start over hurdles in impressive style at Roscommon last month. The impressive Down Royal winner Bel Ami De Sivola is another option.
Petit Mouchoir has twice before finished runner-up at the top level, including behind Don’t Touch It at the Punchestown festival last April.
Don’t Touch It is set to get his chasing career under way and Jessica Harrington has entered JP McManus’s runner for Beginners Chases at both Gowran and Navan this weekend. Another Grade One Punchestown festival winner, Bellshill, also features among both races.
Zabana struck at the top level in Punchestown too last season. Andrew Lynch’s runner finished fourth to Sub Lieutenant on his return to action at Down Royal and may take his chance on Saturday in a conditions chase. The former high class hurdler, Kitten Rock, is another entry for that race.