Sitting here in our hotel in Killarney I am acutely aware that , within the space of 24 hours there will be two ‘firsts’ that impact me significantly. The first is Leicester’s debut in the Champions league away to Brugges and the second is Bay of Freedom’s debut over fences at Listowel tomorrow (4.05pm).
Kim and I traveled over last night and, after stopping at Peter and Ber’s and driving the 200 miles from Dubin Airport we arrived in Killarney exhausted at around 3pm today. Kim has been asleep for most of the time since so it gave me the chance to watch Brugges v Leicester in total silence; the 3-0 win for Leicester being a tremendous test of my vow of silence although, sitting here wearing my lucky blue shirt, there was never a doubt!
There is much more doubt about Bay of Freedom’s performance tomorrow. If he runs like he did at Galway (if running is not too strong of a term) then it will be a complete waste of time. The ground is very deep (heavy) and we just don’t know if he will act on it; I know he won at Wexford on heavy ground but that was more ‘sloppy heavy’ tomorrow will be ‘gluey heavy”. That being said, Mouse Morris (trainer who used to be a jockey) writes course descriptions for the Attheraces.com site. He compares Listowel when heavy to Tipperary when heavy which is very interesting given that Peter was really surprised at how well Bay ran in a schooling hurdle at Tipperary the week before he won at Wexford – you never know: maybe this is his ground. The other piece of confidence boosting news is that he continues to school very well. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been able to school on grass so that may come as a shock to him tomorrow when he takes off at the first fence. It will be the same for all of them who have not raced over fences though as most of the schooling grass gallops have not been open. On the plus side, Kevin (Sexton) is convinced he is a much better horse over fences than hurdles so, at least, the jockey is full of confidence.
There are only seven runners which is good news on several fronts: 1) he will have time and space to see his fences and 2) we can keep him away from other horses as we are (Kim and I ) are becoming convinced he doesn’t like other horses or being crowded (take your pick). It’s not a bad race at all and there are several horses who are deservedly shorter prices than Bay of Freedom. Let me take you through them:
While it would be unlike Charles Byrne (trainer) and Davy Russell (jockey) to target a race (excuse coughing fit) the fact remains that Kerrieonvic has never raced over hurdles and, in fact, has not raced since last November (he was 3rd) and before that had not raced since April 2014! This will be a rare appearance for the 9-year-old and he will start favorite. The best of his hurdles form is superior to any horse in the race (2nd beaten 1/2l by Don Poli) but, in his next race, he was beaten off levels by Golden Plan (who would probably have the worst hurdles form in this race). He, undoubtedly, is talented but has raced exclusively on right-handed tracks and , at 6/4, is too short in my opinion
If you ignore his last run on testing ground at Haydock (and you have to) then he must have a great chance provided he jumps well. His jumping was not always great over hurdles but , then again, Bay of Freedom has had that criticism leveled at him. In my mind, he is the most likely winner (if you take Bay of Freedom out of the race)
I thought he ran well behind Westerner Lady at Kilbeggan before getting tired and falling at the last fence. He could run well but I am not convinced Listowel is his track and certainly not on such deep ground. When he won his maiden hurdle his trainer remarked he was best on good ground – we will see.
If this was a Condiitonal jockey’s hurdle at Punchestown in April I would be very scared of him. As it is, his form over fences is some way behind his hurdles form so , on that basis, I would be against him.
Should appreciate the heavy ground but will still need to improve markedly to figure.
There are some form lines that would give him a chance but , more recently, has struggled to show much form. He is not guaranteed to like the heavy ground
I am scared of them all to be honest and just want Bay of Freedom to enjoy himself, jump well and come back safe. I remain convinced he’s good enough to win a race like this but, no doubt, he does need to step up on his hurdles form.
I will provide an update tomorrow evening after the race.