The Dark Horse looks at the Grade 2 Paddy Power Novice Hurdle at Naas and has a bet in this contest on Max Dynamite and some Neptune Hurdle ante post advice for Cheltenham.
This Grade 2 novice hurdle has been won by some smart horses in the past, with Newmill winning back in 2004 and Go Native and Annie Power scoring in more recent times. This year’s renewal looks a little on the weak side for a Grade 2 and I think there’s a horse that is a standout as he could be so much better than the rest of them.
That horse is the Willie Mullins trained Max Dynamite. He’s a horse that I’ve had a liking for ever since his promising 3rd behind Ocovango at Saint Cloud in 2013 and he showed himself to be a very good horse on the flat. He was arguably a little unlucky to not win a Group 2 next time and he continued to run well in Group 1s and 2s for the remainder of the year.
Bought for €200,000 at the 2013 Arqana Arc Sale by Harold Kirk, he was off the track for over 14 months before reappearing for Willie Mullins on his first run over hurdles at Thurles. Handy throughout, he jumped fairly well and turning out of the back straight for the final time he was travelling smoothly a few lengths behind the leader. After a slight mistake at 2 out, he briefly had to be shaken up and after taking a couple of strides to hit top gear, he soon sprinted past Phil’s Magic and went on to a 6½ length victory. It was a highly promising hurdling debut and the runner up had previously been beaten 2 lengths by Sizing John, giving the form some substance.
His next, and latest, run came at Limerick a month later on heavy ground. He faced a smart rival that day in Kitten Rock, who had finished 4th in a Grade 1 and easily won a Grade 3 on his 2 previous starts and had far more hurdling experience than Max Dynamite. Max Dynamite’s jumping was often hesitant and having been pushed along to get on to the tail of Kitten Rock turning the final bend, he made another mistake at 2 out that badly halted his momentum. From there, he couldn’t pick up on the deep ground and only just held on to 2nd. Given how poor his jumping was compared to Kitten Rock, I think it was a fairly promising run to be able to still stay with him until the mistake at 2 out. Kitten Rock has since won a Grade 3 and a Grade 2 on his 2 starts since and is now rated 153 while Gerdago was rated 129 that day and has since run well in a Grade 2, albeit over further.
Even taking the bare form of that race with no context, Max Dynamite would have a good chance of victory today but I think he could be much better than he showed at Limerick. His jumping cost his ground and momentum on the way round and that didn’t help on the heavy ground. His jumping wasn’t electric at Thurles but it was much better than at Limerick and there’s a chance that could have been due to the different type of hurdles used at Thurles. With him going to a track with conventional hurdles today, that could see his jumping improve and I expect plenty of work has been done on that since his run at Limerick.
A slight worry today is how this race will play out tactically. On the flat, Max Dynamite took a little while to hit top gear when asked for his effort and that was on show again at Thurles. I’m hoping that Lean Araig will go a good pace up front as his last 2 wins have come over 3m and if that’s the case, the combination of a good pace and an uphill finish should help him.
The other slight concern is how deep the ground could get with further rain forecast on soft ground, as although I think he will handle most ground, I’m not sure very deep ground would be ideal.
Neptune Novices Hurdle
The Neptune Novices Hurdle looks a wide open contest at the moment with plenty of decisions still to be made over which race horses will go for and no standout horse in the division.
This race was mentioned as a possible target for Max Dynamite by Willie Mullins at a recent media day at the yard and I think it’s a race that could suit him ideally. I think he could be the type of horse that doesn’t look a superstar in small fields but could show himself to be very useful in a big field and strong pace usually associated with novice races at the Cheltenham Festival. I don’t think a step up in trip would be an issue for him at all, and indeed Ruby Walsh thought he should go up in trip after his win at Thurles.
A good win today would likely see him shorten in the market and I think that despite the other potential options for him (has entries in 2 other novice hurdles and 2 handicaps at the Festival), he is worth a small bet at 50-1 for the Neptune Novices Hurdle.