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February 3rd, 2019 | Marten's Current Racing Diary

Hi there!

We are normally seeking out the mudlarks in the first week of February, especially in Ireland, but the ground for the second day of Leopardstown’s weekend festival was changed to good, with good to firm patches, on the chase course leading to no fewer than six withdrawals from the Unibet Irish Gold Cup.

This didn’t detract from the race, though, with Bellshill just getting the better of Road To Respect on the bob of a head at the line.

Earlier in the day Gordon Elliott seemed to suggest that yesterday’s impressive Irish Champion Hurdle winner Apple’s Jade is now more likely to take her chance in the Champion Hurdle than the Mares’ Hurdle.

Eddie O’Leary made the point yesterday that her ideal trip is 2m 4f and that Cheltenham is “the wrong way round for her”, adding that she would be “conceding a length to Buveur D’Air at every hurdle.”

Yet the fact is that a line through Melon, who was almost certainly not at his best, gives her a clear advantage over Nicky Henderson’s dual-Champion Hurdle winner.

Meanhile at Sandown Buveur D’Air was doing what he always does, landing an uncompetitive Contenders Hurdle with ease.

The market may be dominated by Buveur D’Air and Apple’s Jade, but we must not overlook the claims of Laurina, unbeaten in her last five starts over hurdles and every bit as impressive to the eye as her market rivals when winning a match at Sandown. She is a big mare with scope and Willie Mullins says she is “as good if not better” than 2016 Champion Hurdle winner Annie Power and Quevega.

Having looked a race a little low on lustre for many weeks the Champion Hurdle now promises to be one of the most anticipated races of the meeting for many a year.

My view, at this early stage, is that there will be two key factors that influence the result – the ground and the quality of jumping – but more about that as the great day approaches.

The big names may have taken the spotlights this weekend but I did see one horse that I’m going to keep on my side for the next few weeks.

Whisperinthebreeze, who jumped from fence to fence to make all and land the Leopardstown Handicap Chase from a mark of 130, caught my eye in a major way. I loved the enthusiastic manner in which he went about his business and, aged just six, he could have a great future. He loves the prevailing good ground and is bred to get further than this 2m 5f.

Jessica Harrington says the 4m NH Chase at Cheltenham may be his next target but, whatever the case, this is a horse to keep on your side, especially when racing on good ground.

Bye for now

Marten

Marten Julian, 69 Highgate, Kendal, Cumbria. LA9 4ED    Tel: 01539 741 007    -    Fax: 08448 11 22 97    -    email: info@martenjulian.com