Cork Preview, 04/01/20

Saturday January 4th

Cork 1.55 Handicap Hurdle
2m4f – Going: Soft – 11 runners

Has been beaten double-digits since returning to hurdling in February last year, checking out tamely at Fairyhouse last time behind Janidil, having raced keenly early and pulled himself into a prominent position by halfway, dropping away like a stone in water from the home turn, and easy to take on despite a favourable mark on back-form
Flaxen Flare
Seems best in the warmer months nowadays and was beaten before the home turn over 3m (just about stays that far at his best) at Navan last time behind The Jam Man, ridden prominently, dropping away on the home turn and weakening further in the straight. This is a more suitable trip but he’s 11 now and probably won’t be up for this
One of this five year-old’s best runs to date last time at Cork on November 17th, chased leader from 3rd, in close to 5th, led 7th, overjumped 8th and nearly unseated, moved comfortably turning out of back straight, nudged along approaching 3 out, pushed along, stayed on, led 2 lengths 2 out, was soon joined, headed approaching last, the better jump and still a chance, ridden and faded run-in, was being closed on by the 3rd close home, 2nd to Top Moon. Chance on that despite a 3-lb rise
Has had his chances over hurdles: best effort last year when 3rd to Espanito Bello in maiden at Naas in March, always up with the pace, responding for pressure when driven after 3 out and still half a chance at the last. On reappearance and only start this season probably lacked match fitness when tailed off behind Drury at Punchestown, tracked leaders 4 out, ridden along home turn, stayed on under a ride and every chance 2 out, weakened quickly approaching home turn, looked heavy-legged and tired, tailed off. Better than finishing position at Punchestown suggests and chance here in first handicap
Dont Kick Nor Bite*
Fairly useful, normally ran over fences before long absence from which she comes back here, and best form for some time when last seen out, at Galway in October 2018 when 2nd to Tout Est Permis, ridden into 11th and closer order to track leaders, effort and chased leader last, ridden approaching home turn, put under pressure once in line, no impression last 175 yards, kept on. Ran close when last tried over hurdles between chase runs; is now a better chaser according to official ratings and is well treated here if she’s fit enough
The Gatechecker
Normally races over 3m or more and best performance for some time when winning Cork Grand National (3m4f) over fences on November 3rd, headway and midfield 4 out, further ground going comfortably and chased leader when jumped left and bumped rival 3 out, led 2 out, 1st 2 clear, hard driven, stayed on, led 5 lengths last, ridden out, maintained clear lead, decisively beat Glorious Galway. Was pulled up either side of that, illustrating his lack of consistency, With usual blinkers left off, and over a trip short of his best, not for me
Guard of Honour
On what turned out to be his final start for George Baker, and was his first run over hurdles for over three years, won a 2m4f 0-115 handicap hurdle at Southwell on 25th October 2018, the last time he was seen on the track; mistakes 5th and 6th, switched inner to middle after 7th, moved comfortably 8th, pushed along briefly after 3 out, hard ridden home turn, came widest of all approaching 2 out, put under pressure and closed on leaders approaching last, led jumping, ridden clear run-in, workmanlike and decisive from The Go Tou Man. Well treated on that form and chances on this first start for Willie Mullins
No form over hurdles since running close at Cork in April 2018, a race he arguably should have won; headway after 4 out and prominent, pushed along home turn, tracked leaders approaching 3 out under a push, driven approaching 2 out, within half a length under pressure jumping, took narrow lead approaching last till wandered as if about to run out, corrected in time but lost lead, ridden and kept on run-in, no extra final strides and 2nd to Ministerforsport. Has lost his way badly since, over a trip short of his best (2m) at Cork last time behind Scheu Time, ridden and lost place 4th and tailed off straight. Has failed to take advantage of favourable marks since December 2018 and might now be best watched
Rocky’s Silver*
Found some 10 lbs of improvement on all previous form to take 0-116 handicap chase at Punchestown on November 26th, mistake 3rd, headway 12th, continued ground and prominent 5 out, chased leader next, disputed lead home turn, led and left clear 2 out, hard ridden though in the clear, ridden out from last, stayed on well to maintain from Guided By You. Looks accurately treated over hurdles on that form after Conor Orr’s claim and wears cheekpieces for the first time
Snugsborough Hall
Best recent form on show for the whole of this race is probably this one’s runaway victory in 2m Grade B handicap chase at the Punchestown Festival when last seen out on May 2nd, midfield going comfortably approaching 8th, further good ground after 2 out and tracked leaders going best home turn, led 2 out, not shaken up and went clear approaching last, pushed out run-in, ran on to go further ahead, idled last 150 yards when in the clear, readily by 11 lengths from Impact Factor. That was off 127 and it goes without saying that he’s very well in here off 115 – if there’s a flip side it’s that he’s had his chances over hurdles off this sort of mark in the past, and also he hasn’t gone well fresh in recent seasons
Now aged 11, and having looked exposed, he ran his best ever race last time when 2nd at Navan off a career-high mark of 108 last time, led, 2 lengths clear 7th and 8th, niggled along home turn, was joined 3 out, ridden, stayed on, upsides when mistake 2 out, put under pressure, found more and led a length last, hard driven, all out, was closed on last 150 yards, headed by Mister Fogpatches and no extra final strides, went down with honours. All his wins have been over 3m+, and the Navan race over 2m6f, so going up in grade and down in trip here he could well struggle

Shortlist: Morosini, Dont Kick Nor Bite, Rocky’s Silver

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