A race named after the Arthur Moore trained Royal Bond, a successful national hunt horse in the early 1980’s, the race was established in 1994 and has held Grade 1 status throughout its history. It is usually staged on the same afternoon as the Drinmore Novices’ Chase and the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle and is run over two miles.
A brief look back through the history of the race tells a story of some impressive champions have etched their name into the roll call of winners before moving onto bigger and better things.
Names like Istabraq, Moscow Flyer, Like A Butterfly, Hardy Eustace, Newmill and Hurricane Fly are amongst past winners and it appears to be a race both Noel Meade and Willie Mullins do rather well in.
This year we appear to have a fairly decent renewal of the race, with a couple of unexposed horses in there with the potential to improve further in the future.
Dylan Ross – Fell on his hurdling debut but made amends on his return to the track this campaign with a bloodless victory over Savello at Fairyhouse. The form was franked when third placed Reizovic bolted up two starts later. He appeared held last time by stable-mate Il Fenomeno and looked like he would appreciate going up slightly in trip. I don’t think he has the necessary class to win this race if I’m honest, and there are a couple more likely types in here which warrant more attention.
Galileo’s Choice – A very exciting son of Galileo who is unbeaten in just one outing over hurdles. He was pretty much all out to beat 125-rated hurdler Drumfire on that occasion, but his rival already had the benefit of experience over the obstacles and there was a case for Galileo’s Choice being quite sketchy over his jumps throughout. Since that run he seemed to improve further with a victory in a conditions race hammering Luska Lad (very good hurdler, and decent NHF horse) pretty much as he liked, before an all-the-way success in a Group 3 on the flat at Leopardstown in the Kilternan Stakes. The form of that race has worked out quite well since, with second-placed Look At Me finishing runner up in a Group 2 next time, before going on to win a Listed race. Third-placed Freedom has since gone on to Group 3 success at Dundalk and Northgate who finished some 6.5L back has since won a couple of conditions events. He is very much the dark horse in this.
Il Fenomeno – A horse with a lovely attitude who gives you his all in races. A group 3 winner in Italy, he has taken a while to warm to his task hurdling over in Ireland, but has come good after a couple of midfield efforts in Graded races with two victories on return this season. The form of his comeback victory is nothing special but the way in which he dealt with Dylan Ross last time at Navan suggested he has improved for that outing. I doubt he is up to the class of the main protagonists in here but he is as honest as the day is long, and he’ll be throwing the gauntlet two from home.
Sous Les Cieux – Very much the talking horse in this race, and short priced favourite in the antepost market. In fairness it has every reason to be favourite based on what I saw last time out, and although he didn’t beat much he did it in facile fashion. He was third at Auteuil to his now stable-mate Sir Des Champs (a winner at Cheltenham off 134) who is now rated 143. He was only beaten 3.5L (getting 3lb in weight also). However one thing I have noticed with this likeable son of Robin Des Champs is that he doesn’t find much for pressure after travelling noticeably well through his races. That could be down to a breathing problem which has been rectified by a tongue-strap last time, but such was the poor quality of the opposition it is almost impossible to tell. If there is a problem with his breathing, or a problem ailing him it’ll be exposed against this better quality of opposition at the weekend.
Midnight Game – Made his hurdling debut over two and a half miles but didn’t appear to see out the trip from what I’ve watched. The drop back to two miles here will certainly suit and the fact he hails from the powerful Willie Mullins yard is a tip in itself that he holds this entry. However I struggle to see the necessary class needed in this horses locker to win this, and I think he’ll struggle.
Dazzling Susie – Well beaten in a handicap and held on form by Miss Nomer, it is hard to imagine this daughter of Stowaway making her presence felt here, and not even Jessica Harrington can coax out enough improvement in this mare to see her make the frame, and looks overmatched against this quality of opposition.
Miss Nomer – Gets weight from all her rivals here, and after being beat in a handicap hurdle off 109, improved to win a Grade 3 novice hurdle next time up. She has probably run to around her revised mark of 121 which wouldn’t be enough to win this, and is another which looks overmatched here albeit less so than Dazzling Susie.
My initial thought was to plump for the favourite before digging through the formlines, but I just can’t bring myself to back him at the very short price of 11/10. It could potentially be a moral if it has improved as much as they believe but I like to base my bets around what I have already seen on the racecourse these days, and with that in mind I think the 6/1 about Galileo’s Choice can’t be dismissed as on his flat form there is every possibility he could serve it up to these, providing Dermot Weld has got his jumping sorted.