County Armagh-based trainer Ronan McNally is on the cards for an interesting 2021/22 season on the National Hunt should his charges continue to progress.
Dreal Deal was one of the most exciting horses to emerge over the course of the last campaign, although the ultimate prizes at the climax of the term evaded the Irish thoroughbred.
However, McNally now has the off-season to prepare his horses for the challenges ahead.
Dreal Deal caught the eye in Ireland with a string of outstanding performances, winning five on the bounce to take into the Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle. Despite the calibre of his displays, he was not considered one of the leading contenders for the race at Punchestown. There were doubts over the quality of the races he had entered prior to the contest. The bookies and bettors may have been put off by those factors, highlighting a potential bias.
Artificial intelligence may have been a better ploy for punters betting on that race. For example, the Beth prediction tool, powered by AI, considers all factors regarding a race; such as form, the jockeys in question, the weather, and the conditions of the track. That might have been enough to indicate that Dreal Deal was the outstanding competitor in the field despite his odds of 22/1 to win the contest. With Denis O’Regan in the saddle, Dreal Deal was exceptional in the race and beat his nearest rival by three lengths with a flawless performance.
He was expected to make an appearance in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham Festival, only to be sidelined due to injury. Dreal Deal returned to action at Aintree in the Mersey Novices’ Hurdle, only to finish down the order in seventh after he and the rest of the field were dominated by the express pace of My Drogo.
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McNally will have been encouraged by his side’s early season form and the injury may have played the part in his underwhelming outing at Aintree. However, he will want to test Dreal Deal against the top contenders in the field once more to know more about his charge. It will be interesting to see how McNally deploys the six-year-old next season. He may opt to keep him as a hurdler or allow him to take the next step and become a chaser.
It is a difficult decision for the trainer to make considering the levels of talent at both disciplines, who will be competing for the major honours at Cheltenham Festival and elsewhere. A showdown against Appreciate It or Quilixios could be on the cards should he pursue a crack at the Arkle Chase next year or Honeysuckle and Epatante if he were to line up a run at the Champion Hurdle. Given the calibre of those horses and the occasion at hand, further time to prepare might be to the benefit of Dreal Deal moving forward.
He will be a fascinating horse to watch at the start of the next campaign to see whether his run of victories last season were a flash in the pan or a reason for McNally to be extremely hopeful for a chance of major honours in 2021 and beyond.