€200,000 is on offer for the feature of Listowel’s harvest festival, the Kerry National. 18 will go to post at 4.20pm. The 2015 winner Rogue Angel, now trained by Gordon Elliott who has trained the winner of the last two renewals, both ridden by Lisa O’Neill, is first reserve. Leading rider Rachael Blackmore will take the mount. Can Elliott train the winner for the third year in the row, a lady rider for the hat-trick and Rogue Angel for a second time? Quite possibly. His debut run for Elliott was very promising in the Midlands National and course form is a huge plus.
The preference though is for the Noel Meade trained Snow Falcon. The classy hurdler is lightly campaigned over fences. He has won on the flat here. The 8 year old gelding ran a remarkable race in the Galway Plate last time out when finishing 4th despite being bumped at the third fence, diving at the fourth and a horrific mistake at the sixth, leaving him last with a circuit to go. A couple of extra furlongs and a better jumping display should see the sweet travelling son of Presenting bang there at the business end.
Elliott has three of the runners, Willie Mullins four, Joseph O’Brien two and UK raiders make up three of the field. Only two of the last ten winners have carried more than 11 stone to victory and one winning favourite in the race in the last ten years. Timiyan who bested Rogue Angel in the Midlands National will be popular off a low weight for JP McManus and Elliott. The combination chooses to claim 7 pounds off with the conditional O’Keeffe, after a hike of 10 pounds in the handicap after Kilbeggan. Vieux Morvan is also considered with an excellent run in the form book when second at Leopardstown at Christmas off 5 pound less.
Many of the field have stamina doubts; the likeable front runner A Rated, Townshend and Blazer. Blazer ran a blinder to be second in the Galway Hurdle off the same rating as he races off today over the larger obstacles. I worry he travels very well but sometimes flatters to deceive in the finish. The UK trio have to be respected. Shantou Village may prefer better ground but has form like a Cheltenham win that could see him well handicapped. The more rain the better for Bishops Road who stays well and market support would suggest is ready for a return to form. Dell’ Arca has been mixing codes recently for David Pipe but I think may fall short, only an ordinary fourth in his last chase start.
Bar One Racing are paying an extra place on the big race, 1/5th of the odds 5 places. With tremendous value on offer a longer shot appeals each way. Saturnas has his first go at 3 miles for Willie Mullins. He is relatively unexposed over the big obstacles and can be forgiven somewhat on his last two runs at Galway; when missing the last and second last fence on the 5th of August and in the Galway Plate when badly hampered going out on the second circuit. It wouldn’t be the biggest shock to see former grade 1 hurdle winner fulfil his potential over fences.
Selection: Snow Falcon
Next Best: Saturnas