WHAT do Bellshill, Next Destination, Battleoverdoyen and Envoi Allen all have in common?
Apart from being top class racehorses, all of the aforementioned stars have won the Lawlor’s Of Naas Novice Hurdle and this Sunday another name will join that list – question is which one?
Willie Mullins may have won 6 of the 8 Grade 1 contests over the festive period but it seems that Henry de Bromhead could prove his biggest opponent for the first top level prize of 2021.
Henry de Bromhead has assembled an enviable stable of talent and accompanied by a top class stable jockey in Rachael Blackmore, the pair have proven formidable on the track in recent seasons.
The stable have two major players for the Gold Cup in Minella Indo and recent Savills Chase hero A Plus Tard while Honeysuckle continues to fly under the radar as she bids for back to back Irish Champion Hurdles.
The secret to dominant yards sustaining their consistency is unquestionably strength and quality in numbers and while the aforementioned names are already established, this is the time of year for the younger horses to make their names.
To that end, my fancy for Sunday’s feature race is de Bromhead’s Bob Olinger.
A point winner for Pat Doyle before changing hands privately, Bob Olinger cantered home in his bumper at Gowran Park by 10 lengths.
He returned to that track for his hurdles debut, only to bump into Champion Bumper winner Ferny Hollow, the pair pulling 45 lengths clear of the remainder.
He made no mistake next time when upped to two and a half miles at Navan where he made all of the running to win by an effortless 14 lengths.
Ashdale Bob (Harrington), Blue Lord (Mullins) and Farouk d’Alene (Elliott) are all meaningful opponents but they will have to be something special to stop Bob Olinger this weekend.
The rescheduled Coral Welsh National takes place tomorrow afternoon at Chepstow.
Last year’s second, third and fifth (Truckers Lodge, Yala Enki and The Two Amigos) bid to improve their positions while my fancy carries a lovely light weight down the bottom.
Adam Wedge was seen to great effect when steering Silver Streak to an all the way win in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton and I’m hoping he can do something similar on Secret Reprieve in this 3 mile 6 furlong marathon.
Bred by the McCarthy family in Tallow, Secret Reprive was a comfortable winner of the Welsh National Trial at the beginning of December when accounting for The Two Amigos by 12 lengths.
He actually needed to win that race to get into the handicap proper for this race, now carrying the mandatory 4lb penalty for that triumph.
This is a very lightly raced 7yo (just 8 career runs) but he has ran twice at Chepstow – winning on both occasions.
Chepstow’s supporting card features a Grade 1 juvenile hurdle which would have been far more interesting if travel restrictions not prevented Gordon Elliott from sending his two intended runners Duffle Coat and Quilixios.
Alas, we are likely to see some of Britain’s best juveniles but whether it materialises as a true Grade 1 contest is debatable.
David Pipe seddles impressive Cheltenham winner Adagio and Gary Moore is responsible for Nassalam who has already earned a lofty reputation from his wins at Fontwell.
All things considered, they will have to be pretty spectacular to deter anyone from siding with Zanahiyr in March!
Away from the track, our news streams continue to bombard us with numbers and restrictions but on the equine front, Nicky Henderson announced on Wednesday that the enigmatic Mite Bite has been retired from racing and sad news emerged from France that the wonderful mare Goldikova had passed away.
Goldikova won 17 races in her career which spanned 4 years – 14 of those at Group 1 level.
She won the Breeders’ Cup mile three times and the Prix Rothschild on four occasions.
Mares often fail to receive the credit they deserve but make no mistake, this mare was one of the best of any generation.
From 27 starts, only once did she finish out of the first three places and while many will aspire to emulate her achievements, very few is any will prove successful.