SUB LIEUTENANT ran a cracker last week at Thurles. He ran great, felt brilliant and went a right good gallop, coming second to SIZING JOHN, who should really have at least one Grade 1, if it wasn’t for running into DOUVAN so often. So in my opinion, he’s a Grade 1 winner, and that was the difference between SIZING JOHN and SUB LEIUTENENT when it came to the finish. That being said, SUB LIEUTENANT would be an awesome ride in the Ryanair.
I was second on BLACK KEY at Navan on Saturday. He’ll win a Maiden Hurdle, but he’s just a bit immature at the moment and I’ll be fairly sweet on him the next day.
On Sunday, I rode STELLAR NOTION in the Leopardstown Handicap Chase, who ran a cracker. He jumped great, and at the last, he gained two lengths, then idled up the run in, just getting beaten by a fast finishing, well handicapped horse. I think he could be a horse for the National fences.
A stand out performer for me last weekend was YORKHILL, who I think was actually better than he looked in his win at Leopardstown and he’ll improve from that run again. A TOI PHIL, who beat STELLAR NOTION, stood out for me as well. I think if he skipped Cheltenham, he’d have every chance in the Gold Cup at Fairyhouse at Easter.
FAUGHEEN makes his return from a year out with injury at Leopardstown on Sunday. He’s a very special horse and when he won the Irish Champion Hurdle last year, a bit of soft ground helped him. He’s been off for twelve months, but whatever he does this weekend, he’ll be a tough nut to crack. Saying that, there are a few horses who could give him a good run ahead of Cheltenham. JEZKI’s run back was very good and he’s a horse who looks to have his old spark back, so perhaps he could cause an upset in March.
I beat FAUGHEEN when I rode NICHOLLS CANYON in the 2015 Morgiana Hurdle, and to be fair, it wasn’t expected, as Paul Townend was at Cork and Danny Mullins went to Cheltenham, which meant I was given the ride. No matter how good the horse you’re up against is, you should never change the way you ride. You shouldn’t perform differently according to the horses you’re facing and you should do what's best for your own horse. Luckily I did this with NICHOLLS CANYON: we stuck to our game plan and we came out with a win.
There’s also the Arkle Novices Steeplechase to look forward to at Leopardstown, where MIN and IDENTITY THIEF look set to battle it out again. If both get around safely, it’ll be one hell of a race, but there are plenty of other horses entered to keep it an honest race.