Champagne can put rivals on ice in Thurles

Gordon Elliott saddles recent Thurles winner Champagne Classic at the Tipperary venue today
By Neville Ring

LIZ Doyle is a bit unsure how Justmemyselfandi will handle the forecast testing conditions in this afternoon's At The Races Michael Purcell Memorial Novice Hurdle at Thurles. Placed in each of his four bumper appearances and runner-up on his hurdling debut at Limerick, the six-year-old opened his account at Leopardstown last month.

He steps up to Grade Three level for his latest assignment, with Doyle on something of a fact-finding mission.

"He's in good form and it will be interesting to see how he goes on the ground," said the Wexford-based trainer.

"He has reasonable bumper form on slower ground, but his form has picked up on better ground the last twice. I'm not sure if that's purely down to the ground or the fact he's had hurdles in front of him.

"The ground at Thurles might be an issue, but we'll only find out by running and I think he definitely merits his place in the race. We'll see if he can maintain his improvement in these more testing conditions."

Justmemyselfandi is one of just seven horses declared for the €45,000 two-and-a-half-mile contest, with Gordon Elliott's recent course scorer Champagne Classic heading the field. Willie Mullins, who has not won this prize since Cooldine struck in 2008, relies on Tin Soldier, who beat Champagne Classic on his Irish debut at Fairyhouse last month. Ask Nile, Black Key, Indian Monsoon and Moulin A Vent complete the line-up in what appears a competitive race.

I'd be prepared to see Champagne Classic turn that one-and-a-quarter length deficit around with Tin Soldier here.

Daisy's Gift got closest to smart stable-mate Westerner Lady in a Grade Two here last month and Mullins drops her down in grade and up in distance now for the three-mile mares' novice chase.

This lightly raced ten-year-old may have most to fear from Girly Girl, who was in the process of giving another promising Mullins inmate in Retour En France a race when crashing out at the last fence in Fairyhouse when holding every chance.

Realt Mor faced an impossible task in the Tied Cottage but excelled himself to get closest to Douvan and has his sights lowered significantly for the opening two-mile-two-furlong Rated Chase. Draycott Place was a long way back in third at Punchestown, while Westerner Point was among Realt Mor's victims when he landed a handicap hurdle here last month, yet they appear his primary challengers. To some this might seem like a cakewalk for Realt Mor but I'll oppose him every day of the week and Draycott Place will be the value against him.

Venitien De Mai claimed the Leinster National around this time last year but fell in the Paddy Power Chase when last seen and Jim Dreaper attempts to boost his confidence in the Littleton Handicap Hurdle, off a mark 15lb lower than his chase rating. Inch Rise didn't run badly when behind Isleofopendreams at Punchestown and could go well now for Robbie Power as Jonathan Burke looks like been sidelined for some time after injuring shoulder tendons in a Navan fall last Sunday. Hollow Tree and I'm All You Need are a pair I'd expect to run well too.

Samanntom is another to revert to the smaller obstacles and does so in the lady riders handicap hurdle on the back of a Clonmel chase success three weeks ago that came off a 13lb higher mark. The one to beat is last week's easy Clonmel scorer Zipporah under her 6lb penalty, having been raised 9lb for future handicaps after that six-and-a-half length romp.

Call The Taxie and Moroval have picked up their share of placed efforts and have Gettysburg Address to beat in the three-mile Killinan Maiden Hurdle while the mares' bumper could rest between Martello Park, Creation and La Bella Vida.


Selections: Neville Ring

1.55 Draycott Place

2.25 Daisy's Gift

3.00 Champagne Classic (Nap)

3.35 Call The Taxie

4.10 Inch Rise (Dbl)

4.45 Samanntom

5.20 Martello Park

Selections: Next Best

1.55 Realt Mor

2.25 Girly Girl

3.00 Tin Soldier

3.35 Moroval

4.10 I'm All You Need

4.45 Zipporah

5.20 Creation


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