YAN TO PROVE HIS WORTH FOR GERAGHTY
Barry Geraghty, retained by leading owner J P McManus, is relishing the prospect of partnering the Alan King-trained Yanworth in today's G1 Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle (3.30pm).
The eight-year-old son of Norse Dancer has raced over fences all season, winning two of his four starts, including at Cheltenham on New Year's Day last time out. However, connections have decided to revert back to hurdles for the three-mile championship contest.
Yanworth, a winner of eight of his 10 runs over timber, landed the G2 Coral Hurdle at Ascot, Kempton's G1 Christmas Hurdle and the G2 Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton last season, prior to finishing seventh in the Unibet Champion Hurdle. King's charge was subsequently disqualified from the Cheltenham race after he tested positive for a banned substance, but bounced back to form with a game victory on his first start over an extended three miles in the G1 Ryanair Stayers Liverpool Hurdle at Aintree's 2017 Randox Health Grand National Festival. Yanworth defeated Supasundae on that occasion and the pair are set to renew their rivalry in today's event. The market is headed by Jedd O'Keeffe's G1 Long Walk Hurdle winner Sam Spinner.
Geraghty, who registered his 35th winner at The Festival aboard Buveur D'Air in Tuesday's Unibet Champion Hurdle, had the choice between Yanworth and Harry Fry's Unowhatimeanharry in today's event. Explaning his decision, Geraghty remarked: "Unowhatimeanharry hasn't shown the level of form this season - it would have been a big call to pick him, but he isn't without a chance. Yanworth beat Supasundae last season at Aintree, having previously been favourite for the Champion Hurdle when he disappointed, but he proved at Aintree that he stays, so he has to be of interest.
"His form last season when he won the Christmas and Kingwell Hurdles is good He's done well over fences this season, but has just perhaps not lived up to expectations. If he recaptures his hurdle form, I think he has a great chance in an open race. He's a great ride and whilst he took a while to get his act together over fences, he won at Cheltenham in January. Yanworth is a very good horse and maybe whilst he's not as natural as others, he has an engine and he's been competitive in great races throughout his career, so I'm hopeful of a big run."
Geraghty partners Countister in the G2 Trull House Stud Mares' Novices' Hurdle (4.50pm), but he thinks Nicky Henderson's charge has plenty to find to challenge hot favourite Laurina, trained by Willie Mullins, in the two mile contest.
He commented: "I don't think Countister was going to win at Sandown [February 3] when Ainchea fell, but that horse doesn't look a bad type. However, I think she might struggle on the ground as she's a lovely moving filly. She has bit to find as Laurina was very impressive last time in similar conditions which is a big factor."
The Irish jockey rides Modus in the G1 JLT Novices' Chase (1.30pm), successful three times over fences this season. Geraghty said: "He fell at Exeter on soft ground and I would be cautious that conditions might have gone against him and whilst it is the first race on the New Course and he will be getting the best of the ground, I think he will be better on better ground. Invitation Only [Willie Mullins] is the one to beat. Glenloe [Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle 2.10pm) ran well when third at Leopardstown last time and he is a big horse who will make a lovely chaser in time. I was hoping that conditions could suit - it's a good race.
Reflecting on Buveur D'Air landing his second successive Champion Hurdle on Tuesday, Geraghty continued: "It was a good performance from Buveur D'Air as he had to dig deep and get it done. He kept on powerfully and he showed he was up for the battle. It's important when you have such a well fancied ride to get the winner on the board and I was delighted to be on the winning side and make a good start to the week - it puts you at ease. As soon as he straightened up, Buveur D'Air came alive. I was happy at every stage of the race and Melon (second) wasn't getting away from me. We went for everything in the final furlong and he dug deep to win."
SUNDAE OUT TO PROVE SUPA IN SUN BETS STAYERS' HURDLE
Jessica Harrington is hopeful of a big performance from Supasundae in today's G1 Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle.
Successful at The Festival last year in the G3 Coral Cup over an extended two and a half miles, the eight-year-old son of Galileo was subsequently second to Yanworth in the G1 Ryanair Stayers' Liverpool Hurdle at Aintree's 2017 Randox Health Grand National Meeting over an extended three miles.
Placed behind Gordon Elliott's Apple's Jade in G1 events at Fairyhouse and Punchestown in December, Supasundae defeated 2015 Champion Hurdle winner Faugheen in the G1 Irish Champion Hurdle over two miles on soft ground at Leopardstown on February 3.
Set to renew his rivalry with Yanworth in today's three-mile G1 event, Supasundae is a 7/1 chance with the sponsor Sun Bets to provide Jessica Harrington with a 12th victory at The Festival.
Harrington said: "He's had an excellent preparation and he won well at Leopardstown last time. He has winning form at Cheltenham which always helps and we are hoping for the best.
"Yanworth beat him at Aintree last year, but Supasundae was a bit of a tired horse following his Cheltenham exertions and he never travelled at all throughout the race.
"It was testament to him that he was still in contention at the last hurdle and just got run out of it at the last minute. I hope he's much fresher this time around and he would have a big chance here.
"It would be fantastic to win this race and we can all dream of winning another Grade One. "
Jockey Robbie Power is looking for his fifth success at The Festival and is hopeful of a good run from the gelding. He remarked: "Supasundae has improved so much last year and we can't get over at home what he is like this year compared to last year.
"He has progressed brilliantly and won well last time. It's remarkable in the way he has improved so much."
MULLINS' JOCKEY CHANGES
Following the fall of Al Boum Photo in yesterday's RSA Chase, Ruby Walsh is out of action for the rest of The Festival.
He reported on Racing UK: "My right leg is in a cast and the fall opened the fracture (from a previous tumble in November) at the back."
This means some changes in riding plans for the Willie Mullins' runners today. Details are below.
First race, 1.30pm: JLT Novices' Chase
No. 4 Invitation Only - Paul Townend
No. 5 Kemboy - David Mullins
Third race, 2.50pm: Ryanair Chase
Non-Runner No. 4 Douvan
No. 7 Un De Sceaux - Paul Townend
Fourth race, 3.30pm: Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle
No. 1 Barcardys - Mr Patrick Mullins
No. 6 Penhill - Paul Townend remains on
No. 15 Augusta Kate - David Mullins remains on
No. 17 Let's Dance - Danny Mullins remains on
Sixth race, 4.50pm: Trull House Stud Mares' Novices' Hurdle
No. 2 Laurina - Paul Townend
No. 8 Cut The Mustard - Noel Fehily remains on
No. 11 Pietralunga - David Mullins remains on