Top jockey Davy Russell is a man with strong Meath connections in the Kells area, but he is also ambassador for online betting company Betway and gives his thoughts on a busy period of festive action.
I’m delighted to have teamed up with Betway as a brand ambassador and will be talking you through the pick of my weekend rides every Friday throughout the season, but a bit earlier this week.
I’ll also be posting my thoughts on all the major races at the big festival meetings as well.
I’m riding at Leopardstown on St Stephen’s Day and start with Doldrum Bay for Gordon Elliott in the opening maiden hurdle (12.15pm).
He’s making his debut and being honest with you, he’s a big, weak horse and the experience will help an awful lot.
The stable also sends out the well-fancied Ball D’Arc who is the one that catches the eye. He was beaten at Navan last week, but I expect the application of a hood for the first time to help him.
There may only be a field of eight for the Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle (1.20pm), but it looks arguably the hottest race for juveniles run on either side of the Irish sea so far this season.
Colin Kidd’s Rashaan has run out an emphatic winner of all three of his hurdle starts to date, but will find this tougher with a 3lb penalty.
Willie Mullins saddles likely favourite Footpad who looked really good at Gowran last month and also introduces Apple’s Jade for Gigginstown and she could be anything too. Throw in Jer’s Girl who won nicely Aintree and you’ve got the makings of a red-hot race.
I ride Officer Sydney, one of two Gordon Elliott runners in the field, and he’s won both of his two hurdles starts to date, admittedly at a much lower grade.
This represents a huge step up in class, but I’m still hopeful of a bold show. Don’t rule out a good run from his other runner Campeador who makes his hurdling debut and is an exciting prospect.
Ballyadam Brook (1.50pm) is paying for being ultra-consistent as he has a big weight in the handicap hurdle which isn’t ideal.
He’ll run his usual solid race but may be hard-pushed to beat Baroque Style who finally got off the mark at Navan last month and may step up again. He may have gone up 10lb for that win but Luke Dempsey claims a handy 3lb back.
I’d be hopeful rather than confident about I’m All You Need’s chances in the handicap chase (2.20pm). He’s only been out of the first three in two of his last six runs and was in grand form this time 12 months ago.
Sadly, I’m not riding in the Racing Post Novice Chase (2.55pm), but I’m looking forward to watching the unbeaten Douvan continue on his road to Cheltenham.
He may only be facing three other runners, but make no mistake, although I’m a huge believer in him, this will be a big test.
Jessie Harrington’s Ttebbob will go hard out in front and try to expose any floors in Douvan’s jumping. Sizing John has looked smart over fences and will be there to pick up the pieces should anything go wrong.
Finally, keep an eye out for Mouse Morris’ Grotesque in the bumper (3.25pm). Mouse isn’t known for training bumper winners, so whether or not he’s good enough to win is open to debate. One thing I can assure you is that he is an exciting horse with a big future.
I’ll be keeping a close eye out on the action at Kempton and I’m firmly in the Don Cossack camp in the King George (3.10pm). I was riding out at Gordie’s last week and watched Bryan Cooper on him and the pair looked in great form.
The trip, track and ground should all suit him and he’s the one they all have to beat. That includes the rejuvenated Cue Card who seems a different horse this season.
As for Faugheen, he should win the Christmas Hurdle (2.35pm) and bury the memories of his shock defeat last month.