Munster Hurdle – Analysis of an Intriguing Race at Clonmel on Thursday
Runner-By-Runner Guide to the Munster Hurdle
It is rare that a non-Graded race draws as intriguing a field as the Munster Hurdle has on Thursday at Clonmel. With the most expensive purchase in National Hunt racing present in the field of five, it is sure to be a race to take seriously. All five runners are previewed below alongside our big race verdict.
Notorious now for having fallen in three successive races, CASH BACK is on a retrieval mission more than any other horse in training.
His ability was clear in his novice days, finishing second in the Grade 1 Irish Arkle at the Dublin Racing Festival in 2020 prior to him going off just 6/1 for the Arkle at that year’s Cheltenham Festival.
That race was the first of his run of falls and he was given a sympathetic ride on his return behind stablemate Energumene in order to get some confidence back. He wasn’t a bad hurdler back in 2019 either and has more high-level form than any horse in this lineup.
After his chasing career has been curtailed by his errors, the ten-year-old is an intriguing contender back over the smaller obstacles.
Gordon Dai Dai
Trainer William Burke has every reason to be excited by this horse, who has not found the company of some of the sport’s big guns too intimidating.
GORDON DAI DAI won his opening bumper, with this season’s Albert Bartlett favourite Blazing Khal in behind. He followed that up with a second to Dysart Dynamo at the Punchestown Festival.
Although it took him three starts to win over hurdles, he relished a step up in trip on his most recent start, as a lot of useful bumper performers do. He was behind Uhtred, who goes here as well, in a maiden hurdle, but the form could be overturned now over this distance, especially on a heavy surface.
RODANICHE was a decent performer in point-to-points for Gordon Elliott and it may be over larger obstacles that he begins to make strides.
He has won one of his three novice hurdles so far, but was well-beaten by stablemate Chemical Energy at Fairyhouse. It might be that he would prefer softer ground and he will certainly get that here.
Nevertheless, he is in good company here and even though this is a field of potential improvers, this five-year-old has to do so more than the rest.
Arguably the most promising of these so far, UHTRED was a Listed bumper winner before injury kept him off the track for over a year.
He was given Pattern company assignments by Joseph O’Brien last term and though comfortably beaten in both, he was not disgraced in either race, finishing fourth to Echoes In Rain in a Grade 1 at the Punchestown Festival.
He cosily took a maiden hurdle at Naas on his return, but mistakes at crucial times have ensured that he could not mount a challenge in the Royal Bond at Fairyhouse and that he fell at Limerick on Boxing Day.
This now represents an important stepping stone, as the ability appears to be there. This 2m 4f trip should pose few issues and he should be right in contention if he maintains his footing.
The reason this race takes on greater significance is that it plays host to the second rules start of the most expensive jumps purchase in history.
He was bought by Tom Malone on behalf of Cheveley Park for a whopping £570,000 in December 2020, a truly astonishing number for a National Hunt horse. That owed predominantly to a stylish point-to-point win at Borris House in November of that year.
Transferred to Willie Mullins, he got off the mark in a bumper in Tipperary last May. That race was an especially weak one, but despite being green, he did run away from his field as though he will be made for top events.
It is very interesting that Mullins runs him in this conditions event instead of a traditional maiden or novice hurdle. Clearly he is well thought of, but he can only be recommended on reputation alone.
Big Race Verdict
It is admittedly tempting to suggest that Classic Getaway may simply outclass these given his reputation. However, more proven form so far has come from UHTRED, whose form figures do not nearly reflect his efforts or potential. As long as he can eradicate serious jumping mistakes, he is a big player in this company, especially as Shane Fitzgerald can claim 5lb. Cash Back will also be worth a watch on his return to hurdles.