JLT NOVICE CHASE 2m 4f
OVERVIEW – This race has been kind to the Irish since its introduction in 2011 with all three runnings going to the raiding party. Despite the fact that the Irish supply a 3rd of the runners and leading trainer at the meet Willie Mullins supplying three of these slight preferance is given to the Johnjo O’Neill trained Taquin Du Seuil to give Tony McCoy his first winner at the meet. The 7yo justified short odds to land a Grade 2 at Haydock by a wide margin two months ago and though he has something to find on official ratings with a number of the runners here he boast a win over CD and he looks likely to be suited by the underfoot conditions. His main danger could be the Paul Nicholls trained Wonderful Charm who just failed to gibe 8lbs to Oscar Whisky over a similar trip at Christmas. The last named will go off one of the favourites here but has yet to convince he is a natural at this game while Felix Yonger bids to give Mullins his fourth winner at the Festival. Though he comes out towards the top on ratings and should appreciate a return to better ground he is passed over on this occasion. Indeed the Mullins trained 5yo Djakadam appeals as the better prospect for an Irish success as the Paul Townend ridden gelding has looked a fine long term prospect over fences but he has something to prove on the figures. VERDICT – Taquin Du Seuil looks the value bet to give the home team their first success in the race from Wonderful Charm with Djakadam leading the Irish challenge home.
PERTEMPS FINAL Hc Hurdle 3m
OVERVIEW – Fiercely competitive with no winning favourite in the last 10 years – this race rates a must for punters! Phillip Hobbs has not tasted success in the race in recent years but the Minehead handler is responsible for 5 of the 24 runners. The classy Fingal Bay bids to make it three winning favs to shoulder top weight in the past couple of days and ‘Dickie’ Johnsons mount should make a bold bid to justify favouritism. However he is weighted closely with stablemate If In Doubt on Exeter running last time over slightly shorter and McCoys mount may get his revenge on this occasion. Hobbs has another likely contender in bottom weight So Fine (Tom O’Brien) who finsihed a close third in a CD handicap hurdle three months ago. In a wide open event the vote goes to another bottom weight Josies Orders under the promising 5lb claimer Maurice Lenihan. The 6yo is in fine form having won three of his last four and he is suited by the trip and off bottom weight of 10-9 (claim included) he can O’Neill his third win in the race in the last eleven. VERDICT – The in form Josies Orders can get the better of the Hobbs duo of If In Doubt and So Fine with Top Wood and Mister Dillon other possibles.
RYANAIR CHASE 2m 5f
OVERVIEW – It is somewhat surprising that the Irish (and sponsor Michael O’Leary) have not taken this event in the past decade and the famile looks set to continue today – despite the fact that they provide 4 of the 11 hopefuls. The Pipe team have already ‘hit the jackpot’ with a good winner on Day 1 and they can bag this pot with the CD scorer Dynaste who proved an expensive failure in the Boxing Day feature in Kempton – the King George. The 8yo has been given time to recover and he can take advantage of this easier target (also in the Gold Cup) with the trip and the ground two factors in favour of the highest rated runner in the lineup. Former pointer Al Ferof looks a live danger despite the fact that he has been somewhat below his best this season but a return to a better surface and a drop back in trip will surely benefit the Nicholls runner. Tony Martin’s Benneficient cannot be left out of the equation either as he will not be inconvencied by the ground and he has shown a liking for the track in the past – including a success in the Jewson over the selection last year. VERDICT – Pipe and Scudamore can record their second success of the week with the classy Dynaste who could have the edge over Al Ferof while Benefficient can be relied on to run his race at a track where he has tasted glory.
LADBROKES HURDLE 3m
For many one of the most anticipated races of the four days. In the Irish corner we have the exciting and unbeaten Willie Mullins trained mare Annie Power and in the home stool one of the former greats of the Festival – Big Buck’s. The former is unproven over the trip but connections are speaking in terms of the Gold Cup in the future and breeding experts seem to agree that stamina should not be an issue. The big question over Paul Nicholl’s veteran (winner of ten Grade 1’s with 6 of them here) is whether he is close to the force of old, having faltered late on his reappearance after a long layoff in January behing the admirable but hardly top class Knockara Beau. Personally I would have doubts and the mare gets my vote (despite skinny odds of 6/4) while 2 that could step up to the plate for the runner up berth are More Of That (Johnjo O’Neill) and the ‘Mouse’ Morris trained Rule The World. The last named gets that vote as the 7yo will relish the ground and finished a fine runner up to The New One (unlucky in Champion on Day 1) in the Neptune last year. VERDICT – It looks like ‘Girl Power’ with Annie Power tipped to beat Rule The World and former champion Big Buck’s in what has the makings of a thriller. trip.
Compiled by Mike Barrett
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