Very Wood can thrive on trip at Clonmel

Champagne Fever still in Flyingbolt mix at Navan

Trainer Noel Meade

Trainer Noel Meade


Very Wood’s jumping career hasn’t yet hit the heights expected of him but a step up in trip should help Noel Meade’s runner get back on track in today’s Grade Three feature at Clonmel.

For a horse that won his bumper so impressively at Punchestown last season – having the likes of Value At Risk, Western Boy and Wicklow Brave well beaten behind him - the sky looked the limit over flights.

However, after breaking his maiden at Galway, he didn’t help his own chances in a Grade Three at Navan before finishing fifth in the Royal Bond and then running last of three behind Briar Hill at Naas last month.

In Very Wood’s defence though, he was only seven lengths behind The Tullow Tank over an inadequate two miles while he was only three lengths off Briar Hill and doing all his best work at the finish.

The two and three quarter miles of today’s Surehaul Novice Hurdle should suit the Albert Bartlett entry who will be ridden by Bryan Cooper for the first time.

Very Wood’s biggest threat is likely to come from Double Irish, a hugely impressive winner at Christmas from the subsequent winners Champagne James and Quickpick Vic. He still holds entries in all three big novice hurdles at Cheltenham.

Nagging doubt
A nagging doubt though is that that Christmas effort was a major step up on anything Double Irish had done before, so much so that he went off a 16/1 chance.

There will be none of that today, but over this trip, and on heavy ground, Very Wood could be a better option.

Turban will have his stamina stretched in the two and a half mile chase but is rated to edge it against opposition that has something to prove while the same trip should be ideal in the handicap chase for Popaflora , out of the handicap proper but on the back of a good run last week at Down Royal.

Meanwhile, Willie Mullins has stated he has no problem sending the Arkle favourite Champagne Fever straight to Cheltenham next month but he has still kept open the option of running his dual-festival winning hero at Navan this Sunday.

Champagne Fever is one of nine entries left in the Grade Two Flyingbolt Novice Chase, named after Arkle’s legendary contemporary at Tom Dreaper’s yard in the 1960’s, after yesterday’s declaration stage.

The grey was taken out of last Sunday’s Dr PJ Moriarty at Leopardstown when Mullins was “not entirely happy with him” but the champion trainer could now test the credentials of the 7/2 Arkle ante-post favourite back at two miles.

“We’ll see how he is during the week,” reported Mullins who describes Champagne Fever as “Arkle material” despite also holding entries in the RSA and the JLT Novice Chase. “I’d have no problems going straight to Cheltenham though.”

Champagne Fever last raced on St Stephen’s Day when finishing only third to Defy Logic. His possible opposition on Sunday includes Bright New Dawn and the vastly more experienced Cootamundra, winner of the Troytown at Navan earlier in the season.

Nine-strong entry
Both of those horses also hold entries in the Sunday’s other Grade Two novice event, the Ten Up Novice Chase over three miles. Among the nine-strong entry for that is Foxrock, currently a 7/1 favourite for the four-mile National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham.

Ten horses remain in contention for the Grade Two Boyne Hurdle including a trio of Willie Mullins-trained horses that includes Zaidpour and Mikael D’Haguenet. Mullins has won the two miles and five furlong event for the last two years with On His Own and Mourad. Another entry is the Grade One winning chaser, Bog Warrior.

Ground conditions at Navan yesterday were officially “soft to heavy.”