THE PUNTER'S EYE: 'Genie' can work magic to claim Bobbyjo Chase
With just over two weeks to go to the Cheltenham Festival, a lot of stable stars are being waited with, but Fairyhouse and Naas still boast decent cards this weekend.
Mastermind (5/1) is an improving horse coming off the back of a win that reads very well in hindsight. On heavy ground at Naas earlier this month, he picked up a win over Pete So High, coming home three lengths in front of Gordon Elliott's four-year-old on heavy ground. That rival had previously finished just eight lengths behind Mr Adjudicator whose own win over Farclas and Espoir D'Allen recently shot him into second-favourite for the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham. Although Mastermind might have to reverse form with Mitchouka on the basis of their meeting earlier in the year, the Charles O'Brien runner will prefer the heavy ground expected in the 14:35 race at Fairyhouse on Saturday. He is also entered in a race at Naas on Sunday and I'd expect him to win whichever one he's directed to.
The renewal of the Bobbyjo Chase at 15:30 at Fairyhouse on Saturday is far from vintage and Noel Meade's A Genie In A Bottle could capitalise for a big day in the sun. Bellshill will be the favourite for Willie Mullins, and although his run to be third behind Might Bite at Cheltenham last year, he is returning after almost a year away from the track, and that has to be a negative. Meanwhile, A Genie In A Bottle has to be forgiven to very poor runs behind Total Recall and Monbeg Notorious, but his older form still reads well. He hasn't become a bad horse overnight and those two runs have really been the only poor ones he's put in over a two and a half year career. He hasn't got the best form over three miles and further but he has beaten the re-opposing Mala Beach and Tiger Roll over 2M 7F. He also has good form with the impressive Anibale Fly from last year and if he stays well, he'll be up to beating these rivals.
Ball D'Arc is a horse that can be forgiven his latest poor run when he unseated his rider in a race won by Min at Leopardstown in December. He'll go in the 15:45 at Naas on Sunday afternoon for trainer Gordon Elliott. He always runs well at this time of year, and in fact won races in January, February and March in 2017. It's worth noting too that his latest win came at Naas, a five-length success over Ordinary World last November. That was on soft to heavy, a surface he's sure to get once more on Sunday. It seems everything, with the exception of the prospect of saddling top weight, is in Ball D'Arc's favour this weekend and a big run is expected. He can crown a good weekend for Gordon Elliott's yard.