By News Team
Last Updated: 21st March 2020
Flat action at Dundalk got the racing calendar back underway on Friday and now the jumpers take centre stage this weekend. Racing takes place at Thurles on Saturday and then it’s on to Downpatrick on Sunday.
There are plenty of good races to get our teeth stuck into, so without further ado, here’s our preview.
The BetVictor Hurdle (2:10pm) looks a potentially trappy contest on paper and the betting agrees with MARY FRANCES the current 11/4 favourite. However, given how well Martin Hassett’s eight-year-old won a Pertemps Qualifier last time at Punchestown, the race might be much simpler than that. Having won that race he could easily have run in the Final at the Cheltenham Festival last week, so it’s interesting that connections have bypassed that option in favour of running the mare here and that could be a tip in itself.
The key to Hassett’s inmate seems to be soft ground as shown by that impressive win last time and with conditions set to be on the soft side again, connections will be hopeful of another bold showing. Prior to that Punchestown win, they ran her in the Group 2 Galmoy Hurdle and although she was beaten 58 lengths by Benie Des Dieux, to be pitched in at that level shows the ability they think she has.
Her handy mares’ allowance as well as Eoin Walsh’s 7lb claim make her life even easier and she should take plenty of beating.
It could be a good day for favourite backers as SIZING POTTSIE looks the one to beat in the Grade 3 Memorial Novice Chase (3:10pm). Make no mistake, this gelding is a bit of a monkey and comes with his risks as shown by his debut over fences last year when he unseated his rider. However, he is also clearly a horse with huge ability as shown by his two victories since which he has won by 12 and 15 lengths respectively.
The last day, in the Flyingbolt Novice Chase at Navan, he looked to be in trouble and was briefly headed approaching the third-last, but Jessica Harrington’s charge quickly got his act together to put the race to bed in impressive fashion. The way he galloped through the line over two miles suggested this step up to 2m2f will cause no issues and providing the quirks don’t get the better of him, he looks a very solid favourite at 5/2.
The big race of the day on Sunday is the Ulster National (3:10pm) and finding the winner in these marathon handicap chases is never an easy task. Gordon Elliott holds a typically strong hand in the race with six runners and two of his are fancied to run well.
Though GENERAL PRINCIPLE is now an 11-year-old, he has shown enough in his last two starts to suggest he still has one more big day left in him. Of course, his day in the sun came when he won the 2018 Irish Grand National and he hasn’t made it back into the winners’ enclosure in 12 starts since. However, that winless sequence has meant he’s down to a mark of 131, eight pounds less than that win at Fairyhouse.
Many horses of his age lose interest and that could have been the case with him but his two recent runs have been much more like it. The fire clearly still burns bright for the son of Gold Well and he looks worth backing each-way at 10/1.
The other Elliott contender to back is ITS ALL GUESSWORK at 12/1. He’s only run twice this season, both in handicap hurdles, and it could be that connections have had this race in mind for a while. He last ran over fences at last year’s Cheltenham Festival where he finished down the field in the Kim Muir off a mark of 133. He’s now down to 128 and that could look very lenient indeed given some of his novice form.
Davy Russell is back on board, the only jockey to have won on the eight-year-old, and he looks a very interesting contender.