With the days counting down until the Cheltenham Festival 2015 – there are now less than 9 weeks until the Supreme Novices Hurdle – many of the leading contenders will either be in their box waiting for the big day or approaching their last runs (as I write, this is Monday the 12 January, just less than two weeks away from Trials Day). This is an ideal time to start looking at the Festival ante-post lists, with the bookmakers and punters on a fairly even footing as far as evidence goes. Of course, there’s the question of who goes where, and with nearly every Willie Mullins novice that must come into the equation, but he looks to have two very strong contenders for the Arkle. Un De Seacux is unbeaten when staying on his feet and has looked nothing apart from a monster, winning twice in France to increase a burgeoning reputation that has been kept intact since going over fences, despite his fall at Thurles on debut. His claims are obvious and he will take a good deal of catching here, but there are questions for him to answer. While it is understandable that he missed Punchestown and Cheltenham last year for the prize money available in France, he has never run on anything better than soft ground – a massive question mark considering that he’s unlikely to get it in Ireland before the Festival where the going is of course likely to be more good than soft. While his victory against Smashing was very impressive – as you’d expect – going from the front in the pressure cooker situation of the Arkle is going to be a very different situation for him and it remains to be seen if he does get the lead he wants. Being a short priced favourite at this stage and with the ground doubts, he can be avoided. The value may actually be coming from inside his own stable, with last year’s Supreme Novice Hurdle winner Vautour as big as 8/1. He was far shorter before a Leopardstown blowout at Christmas when 1/4, where he ended up 17 lengths behind Clarcam – but there are plenty of reasons to forgive that. While the big mistake that ended his challenge was worrying, poor movement through the race – something highlighted by Mullins recently – suggested that he wasn’t 100% right and that was most likely compounded by the deluge that Leopardstown suffered on St Stephens Day which left him floundering in soft ground before he ended his chances 5 out. While it’s true that he did beat Clarcam in soft ground on both their chasing debuts, the ground that day was far easier to cope with than at Leopardstown, and if anything the bloodless nature of that victory shows just how off form he was there. Vautour has run twice on good ground under rules – and in those two runs he slaughtered the Supreme Novice field and then won easily enough at Punchestown afterwards. While his jumping obviously will need to be up to scratch, there will have been plenty of work done at Closutton and we should hopefully see a better round if he does go in the Irish Arkle or a smaller chase before the Festival. The same connections had Champagne Fever beaten under similar circumstances before being beaten in the Arkle in the very last stride. It is no new phenomenon for Arkle winners to have had setbacks on their way to the title and at 8/1, he appeals as the value in the race. Clarcam has to be hugely respected following his impressive win at Leopardstown. Gordon Elliot’s charge has clearly improved hand over fist and has looked a natural chaser, although the lack of a weight for age allowance is a significant negative come the day. Gilgamboa was a disappointment in the Supreme Novices, having travelled menacingly into the race before a mistake ended his chances, but in just two runs as a chaser he has already shown his accomplishment and has to be strongly considered. His debut win was followed by a deeply impressive performance at Limerick, when having Adrian Des Mottes – giving no small amount of weight to the previous winner in a strong field for the Grade – on toast before she fell at the last. An extremely strong traveller, his jumping has convinced more than most at the top of the market and while he’s also entered in the JLT, an entry into the Irish Arkle would suggest that he will remain at the minimum trip. A previous ante-post bet of mine, Josses Hill looked a ready made chaser last season and actually made a very promising debut – more so than many would have imagined – at Ascot behind Ptit Zig, but the lack of improvement in his jumping at Doncaster last week was worrying with no fluent jumping until the last, which he jumped well before being pushed strongly out to beat the 145 rated Solar Impulse. It is entirely possible that he can improve with experience – which he simply must have more of – but the long amount of time spent in the air and poor technique are both worrying for such a test and he can only be left out of calculations. Vibrato Valtat and Sam Twiston Davies got some stick after being beaten at Cheltenham in November but under Noel Fehily he has shown no end of resolution and speed in winning the Henry VIII and Wayward Lad Novices Chases. He will love the strong gallop on good ground and prices close to 20’s are probably too big. For all that he still needs to improve (something that’s not out of the question). A big price contender of real interest would be Sgt Reckless, who has been strangely campaigned since winning well on his chasing debut at Uttoxeter and who was in the wrong place at the wrong time in last year’s Supreme. He appears overpriced, but time is running out for him to gain experience. Ptit Zig would have been of serious interest but will go the JLT after his impressive New Year’s Day win, and Valseur Lido is surely going to there or the RSA Chase as Willie Mullins has hinted. Advice 1 pt each/way Vatour (8/1 Paddy Power, Stan James, Winner, Spreadex) 1 pt each/way Gilgamboa (12/1 Totesport, Betfred, Ladbrokes) For our exclusive Community Members only preview of the RSA Chase, JOIN US for just £6 per month. You’ll also get £10 off admission to our Cheltenham Festival Preview Evening in Cheltenham on Friday 6 March, tips every day and much more – learn more about Free and Community Membership.
Nicky Henderson’s Dawalan has been awarded favouritism in this year’s Fred Winter and is available at around 7/1.
Ante-post watchers can crawl through the entries looking for the faintest clues of a Sanctuaire-like plot. What should serve punters well is to adhere to the prevailing trends in this devilishly tough handicap hurdle.
- 8/9 rated between 124 – 133
- 8/9 were sired by a Group 1 flat winner
- 6/9 won within their last two starts
- 6/9 won carrying at least 10st 13lb
- 5/9 won their last start
- 5/42 of the horses rated 120 or below were placed
Henderson’s Dawalan enters the fray with likeable credentials. The horse achieved a RPR of 89 on the flat and has won within his last two starts. The French-bred will carry 11-0 and is a strong contender based on the key trends of the race. Henderson won the race in 2012 with the 40/1 shot Une Artiste and stands a great chance of making the frame.
Oliver Sherwood enters the intriguing 14/1 shot, Carry On Sydney. The trainer recently remarked that the horse was notably laid-back, but has some decent form this season, including a one-and-a-half length defeat to Dawalan in January. Off 10-4 the horse has seen his price chipped away with the knowledge that Sherwood’s had the Fred Winter as a target for a while.
Dispour may well be the pick of Donald McCain’s two entries. Priced at 33/1, his last two runs were fairly miserable including a thirty length defeat to My Tent Or Yours in February’s Jumpers’ Bumper. He’ll run off a decent mark and answers some of the key trends required to get into the shake-up. McCain named the horse as one of his most promising at the beginning of the season and could be a shrewd each-way play.
Preference is for Clarcam from Gordon Elliott’s yard. He’s never finished outside of the top three since joining Elliott and finished a good second in the Scottish Triumph Hurdle Trial at Musselburgh recently. He’ll run off a good mark and is genuine enough to give backers value in a minefield of a race. Clarcam can be backed today at 16/1.
Looking back at the history of the race, only two of the previous nine winners had won one of their first two starts. Those horses had scope to improve at an attractive pace with the handicapper, affording them the chance to enter this race with eye catching performances. The last two years have produced winners at big prices – Flaxen Flare (25/1) & Une Artiste (40/1).
Selection – Clarcam – 20/1 (E/W) with William Hill
Selection – Carry On Sydney – 14/1 (E/W) with William Hill
|Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle – History|
|2013||125||Flaxen Flare D||4||10-8||127||25/1||G Elliott (IRE)|
|2012||11114||Un Artiste D||4||10-8||127||40/1||N Henderson|
|2011||757||What A Charm||4||10-6||115||9/1||A Moore (IRE)|
|2010||531||Sanctuaire D||4||11-2||127||4/1F||P Nicholls|
|2009||52111||Silk Affair (5x)||4||10-4||125||11/1||M Quinlan|
|2008||531||Crack Away Jack D||4||11-10||133||14/1||E Lavelle|
|2007||22111||Gaspara (4x) D||4||10-11||130||9/2J||D Pipe|
|2006||4P1||Shamayoun D||4||11-3||124||40/1||C Egerton|
|2005||225||Dabiroun||4||11-4||124||20/1||P Nolan (IRE)|
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Cheltenham Festival Clues: World Hurdle 2014
More Of That (IRE) 5-y-o (22Feb08 b g)
Beneficial (14.4f) – Guigone (FR) (Esprit Du Nord (USA) (14.1f))
More Of That has run four times in his short career. Winning a Novice Hurdle, Class Three and Two handicaps, and most recently a Grade Two hurdle at Cheltenham. He is improving at a rate of knots and one has to assume there is more to come. His breeding suggests three-miles will be within his stamina range bringing the World Hurdle into play. His current FSF rating is 10lb short of reigning champion Solwhit, who himself is 12lb short of the best FSF rating Big Bucks has achieved. Despite reports of a satisfactory gallop, Big Bucks has miles of gallops and the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham in January to negotiate, as well as proving he retains all, or most of his ability. More Of That’s recent win at Cheltenham, came despite jumping errors and finding Salubrious stealing a march on him. Once upsides after the last, he appeared to win with plenty left in the tank. At Fishers Cross and Zarkandar apart, More Of That has age on his side, which others around him in the betting do not.
The first of my Cheltenham Festival 2014 ante-post selections and where better to start than the curtain raiser to 4 days of action; the Supreme Novice Hurdle.
The Irish Challengers
Current ante-post favourite Briar Hill trades at between 8/1 and 12/1 and comes from the all conquering stable of Willie Mullins and so far is unbeaten under Rules. Won a 5 runner affair at Thurles in a slow time and went for the Cheltenham Bumper an unconsidered 25/1 shot, even with Ruby Walsh taking the ride. Yet he won in the style of a smart horse brushing aside a quality field with ease. Made his hurdles debut at Wexford over 2m2f and did it from the front showing some very fast fluent hurdling and coming home in splendid isolation in a below average time. Looks a smart type but with Willie having many contenders for each of the novice races it’s hard to tip him with confidence plus I’d be very surprised if he can emulate Champagne Fever.
Another Willie Mullins horse is Moyle Park who is also unbeaten, but after taking his debut bumper which was a good affair, he skipped Cheltenham and went for the Punchestown Land Rover Bumper which he landed after a protracted duel with Wraith Of Titans. Took his hurdles debut in fine style once again showing Wraith Of Titans a clean pair of heels. He looked a very smart prospect and showed a lot of speed at his obstacles and of the two Mullins’ horses I’d be leaning more towards this fella.
Vautour is yet another from Willie Mullins who made his debut this weekend after being picked up from France after 2 good efforts for Guilluame Macaire. Won in the style of a nice horse at Navan and could end up anywhere. 16/1 to 25/1 quotes seem fair but as usual I’ll be waiting to see where he runs next.
Golantilla was all the rage leading upto the Festival after his demolition job at Cork when coming home 13 lengths clear of the field and was already being touted as the Bumper horse even before this based on his point to point win at Avaune. Ran a respectable third for Tony Martin and looked a big chasing type for the future and as we have yet to see him over hurdles it’s hard to make a case for him, but he is a horse I have a lot of respect for.
The Liquidator is currently disputing favouritism and is quoted at 10/1 to 14/1. He has staked a very good claim already with a impressive win over course and distance at the International meeting following up from his win at Carlisle. 4th in the Cheltenham Bumper he went on to win one of Punchestown’s Festival Bumpers and is a high class animal who for me sets the standard and providing he isn’t rerouted to the Neptune he will be tough to beat.
West Wizard sits 4th in the betting for Nicky Henderson and his price seems to be based on potential than proven ability. His Bumper win at Kempton has been well advertised with The Skyfarmer winning his next 3 starts and The Pirate’s Queen running 5th in the Aintree bumper and coming a fair second in a Listed hurdle race at Newbury recently. Unfortunately, he didn’t do such a good job as those he’s beaten when getting turned over at long odds-on at Kempton by Sgt Reckless. For me, he looked more of a staying type and will need to up his game to justify his current position in the ante-posts market and represents little value currently.
Regal Encore is between 14/1 and 20/1 and deserves close attention. Only beaten twice from 5 starts, he went into the Cheltenham Bumper as favourite and finished a honourable second to Briar Hill. For me he was far too keen throughout the race and I was surprised he still had anything left as they entered the home straight. Went to Aintree for his hurdles debut and was brushed aside by Garde La Victoire but showed some promise and improved on this run when turning out at Plumpton and winning hard held quite cheekily. Sure to progress through the season and let’s hope he looses this headstrong style of running as this will see him winning more races.
Irving has been very impressive for Paul Nicholls since arriving from German trainer J Hirschberger where he won 4 of 6 starts on the Flat. Two from two over hurdles he took apart a Class 3 field on his debut looking a bright prospect and then followed up at Ascot in similar fashion. I’m very interested to see where he goes next and his price is half tempting with 14/1 to 25/1 freely available for a trainer who knows what’s required to win the Supreme.
Garde La Victoire is unbeaten under rules for the Hobbs team and is a horse I rate very highly. Won a junior bumper at Exeter and the yard couldn’t get a run into him due to the savage winter we endured and he then became ill so was left off until recently. Turned up at Aintree and for me he won as he liked beating Regal Encore who obviously has very strong form already. Followed that up with another impressive display at Warwick, looking even better than on debut. So we have another unbeaten runner who for me looks the real deal and would like to see him around Cheltenham as think he’ll love the hill as he looks a relentless galloper.
At the moment I believe these are the main challengers and of those mentioned I am most keen on The Liquidator and Garde La Victoire and would suggest a 1pt win on each at 14/1 and 16/1 to start off our ante-post portfolio.
The Liquidator – 1pt win 14/1 generally
Garde La Victoire – 1pt win 16/1 generally
Compliments of the season and wishing you a Very Happy, Healthy & Prosperous New Year!
For more previews, tips and analysis for Cheltenham Festival 2014 visit my site at www.rogergreenracing.co.uk.
Analifet (FR) 3-y-o (05May10 b f) – OUT FOR SEASON
Califet (FR) — Viana (FR) (Signe Divin (USA)
W P Mullins
OUT FOR SEASON
Talented filly that jumped her way to the head of the Triumph Hurdle market with an exhilarating display at Fairyhouse. This followed an equally effortless win at Punchestown. She jumps fast and accurately, despite diving at the last on her Irish debut at Punchestown. Bred to stay two and a half miles, she has proven herself on right-handed, undulating, and stiff tracks in Ireland. It can be argued her style of racing may not be best suited to a Triumph Hurdle run at Cheltenham. However, having viewed the video of her debut win at Compiegne, I can inform readers that she raced kindly off the pace. With two hurdles to jump, she was eight lengths off the leaders. Delivered to challenge approaching the last hurdle, she flew the obstacle and forged clear on the run-in. She jumped the stiffer French hurdles with as much alacrity as those in Ireland. Interestingly, Compiegne is a flat, left-handed track. The second home on that occasion has since run seven times. Her record is six wins and one fall. The latest win came in Listed company at Enghein; she is now rated 143 by the French handicapper. With winning form on good to soft through to very soft, she appears unfazed by track conformation or ground underhoof. Her RPR achieved in the Bar One Juvenile Hurdle at Fairyhouse, is 1lb higher than that recorded by Our Conor in the same race.
Analifet is currently 10/1 with Paddy Power (affiliate link).
Such has been the Irish dominance of the RSA Chase over the last five years that is difficult to reconcile just what a barren landscape the race has been for Irish trained horses at the Cheltenham Festival over the last 30 years. Only the fabulously talented Bobs Worth in 2012 has prevented the Irish flag from being raised in five successive years following wins for Cooldine, Weapon’s Amnesty, Boston’s Angel and Lord Windermere last year. This season, the Irish novices are unlikely to have it their own way with every prospect of the pendulum swinging back across the Irish Sea. Based on early season performances, Smad Place, Le Bec, Wonderful Charm, Shutthefrontdoor and African Gold but to name a few are lively contenders for the race. The focus on the Irish novices has quite rightly been on Morning Assembly and Don Cossack, who fought out a very high standard duel last Sunday at Punchestown. Bright New Dawn has yet to race this season but is another to consider. So although still early in the season, at a point where much attrition can yet occur, the RSA Chase appears to have some depth to it. This article is less concerned about debating the merits of the various contenders mentioned above – that can wait for another day – but more on focusing on one horse from Ireland who has slipped below the radar thus far this season; a possible sleeper in the market. That horse is Ballycasey. In the run up to the Cheltenham Festival last March, he became something of whispering horse due to the steady and persistent weight of ante-post money steadily placed on him for the Albert Bartlett novice hurdle. Perhaps because he ultimately did not run at the Festival, he has become either a forgotten horse or one that has been temporarily overlooked. That focus may change this weekend, with Ballycasey entered up for a chasing debut at both Gowran Park on Saturday and at Navan on Sunday. Team Mullins does not tend to talk their horses up for the sake of it. Witness how Champagne Fever and Briar Hill came to Cheltenham in March relatively unfancied but who came away with Festival glory. So when the shrewd folk talked about Ballycasey last season, the smart punters took note. And they don’t come much shrewder than Harold Kirk, assistant trainer to Willie Mullins. Trek to any course around Ireland and it is likely you will find Mullins in the trainers and owners stand, flanked by Kirk, the former training his eyes through binoculars with the latter watching the race on the big screen. That the duo is inseparable on track owes much to the success of the role that Kirk has played in identifying and attracting new, young talent to the Co Carlow yard, helping to keep the conveyor belt of tomorrow’s stars whirring via the public auction and in the private undisclosed sales across Ireland, the UK and France. Asked in early March who his tip from the yard was, his answer was Ballycasey in Albert Bartlett novice hurdle. “I think he’s a very good horse,” said the mildly spoken Kirk. It was a view held across the yard. In an interview with an Irish newspaper last March, Patrick Mullins likened sitting on Ballycasey to driving a Maserati. Such is the slog fest that is the RSA Chase, that you are more likely to need a Land Rover than a Maserati, but the point is well made. Ballycasey has an engine which purrs. And the size of the engine should ensure he gets the trip. On pedigree, Ballycasey has substantial reserves of stamina. By Presenting, Ballycasey has a sire who fathered two Gold Cup winners in War of Attrition (2006) and Denman (2008), in addition to a winner of the RSA Chase itself, Weapon’s Amnesty (2010). On the dam’s side, there is Montelimar who had a strong influence in a number of Grand National winners including Monty’s Pass (2003) and Hedgehunter (2005). Described by his trainer in the Racing Post’s stable tour as having oodles of stamina and having been entered for the 3m Albert Bartlett novice hurdle last March, there is every chance that the RSA Chase is the race he is being trained specifically for this season. This is an important consideration given that the trainer often gives his novices multiple entries at the Festival, thereby heightening the ante-post risk of backing a horse for the wrong race. Having a single season end’s goal is another key consideration. Look at how Mullins trained Sir Des Champs last season, whose season began less than fully wound up for a bow against Flemenstar in Punchestown in December 2012 where he could not match the latter’s match fitness. His next race was the Lexus Chase in December, where after getting a second wind he was a fast finishing fourth behind Tidal Bay. Mullins is on record as saying his 3m chasers typically improve by 10lb from the Lexus to the Hennessy and it was duly so when Sir Des Champ claimed his first victory of the season in February, leaving him cherry ripe for the Gold Cup in March. With the RSA as his ultimate goal, Ballycasey’s entire season will be built around arriving at peak condition in March. The trainer’s track record in the race is unrivalled among his current peers and you have to go back to Fred Winter with Brown Chamberlain in 1982 to find the last trainer to train three winners of the race. Mullins’ trio of winners Floriday Pearl (1998), Rule Surpreme (2004) and Cooldine (2009) were different types of horses in the own right so he knows what it takes from a horse to win this particularly demanding race. Having been down at Punchestown myself last Sunday, the word filtered through as darkness began to descend was that Ballycasey had jumped like a stag in a schooling session around the track after racing. This speculation was given credence the day after when trainer and pundit Ted Walsh referred to Ballycasey along those lines in the Racing Post. Finally, as a seven year old next March, Ballycasey will fit the modern trends for the race. All seven of the last winners were aged seven, and 8 out 10 of the last winners were of this age. With an official handicap rating of 143, he is also in the range of novice hurdlers who typically improve over fences and win the race. The above is the case for the defence. The prosecution’s case is likely to focus around a couple of important factors. In the first instance, Ballycasey remains both inexperienced under Rules and largely untested in battle. By his own admission, Mullins says they were easy on the horse last year and would be asking a lot more questions this year. Prior to Cheltenham last March, Ballycasey’s on course experience consisted of a Bumper at Leopardstown, a maiden hurdle at Clonmel and an ordinary looking novice hurdle at Thurles. Not exactly the stuff of a Maserati. On form, Ballycasey has 7 lengths to find on Morning Assembly, who beat him in a Grade 1 hurdle at the Punchestown Festival. But given the form of the latter, this was no disgrace for a horse whom a month prior to that was withdrawn from the Albert Bartlett novice hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival because his bloods were off. With only a handful of races to judge him by, Ballycasey’s mettle has yet to be fully tested and proved. The final stages of the RSA Chase are the equine equivalent of hand to hand combat. Victory invariably goes to the animal with that basest of survival instincts. Until we see Ballycasey go eye to eye in a top class race, this remains an unproven dimension to his profile. However, the horse is bred for the task in hand, has been bought for races like this in mind, is likely to run, is trained by a multiple winner of the race, and is likely to have one of the best jockeys of all time on board in Ruby Walsh. Armed with the facts presented above, I am more than happy to trust the opinions of three much better judges than myself – Willie Mullins, son Patrick and Howard Kirk. Having nibbled away at Ballycasey on Betfair at prices in the 27 – 32 range, it appears I am not alone as the price begins to contract. At the very least, I hope these prices will translate into a profitable trade at some point later in the season or who knows perhaps even a lucrative ante-post wager worth holding onto come next March.
Look at your clock and rejoice. There is less than a month until the most important week in the calendar – the Cheltenham Festival 2018. Yes, those four days are less than four weeks away and as part of the build-up to the epic festival it’s time to shine a light upon a race that hasn’t had the microscope treatment here – the Betway Champion Chase.
Two deeply impressive performances over the past month has injected a huge amount of potential into the race, and also ignited a rivalry which is by no means unfinished – that of Altior v Min. Altior, so deeply impressive when trashing Min in the Supreme Novice’s Hurdle two years ago, didn’t get a chance to have the rematch that so many had hoped for with the Irish raider when he suffered and injury last year, and in his absence, belted older opposition in the Game Spirit before then winning the Arkle, putting away the penalty kick that he was given by the fall of Charbel.
Some suggested that he wasn’t at his best that day, and his wide margin win in the Celebration Chase afterwards – arguably a more impressive performance – suggested that could have been the case, although there was no doubting for many that he was the best 2-mile chaser in training.
One had expected to see him more than once this season, but fortune was not kind to Nicky Henderson, who found out that Altior had made “a whistling noise” during his work in the lead up to the Tingle Creek, for which he had been a hot favourite – it turned out that he needed a wind op. So away he went, with the Game Spirit the one chance he would have to run before the Cheltenham Festival. Thankfully he made it, and as you can recall, he oozed class in tracking Politologue and then moving past him in a manner of seconds, with Nico de Boinville having an easier time on him than he did for any of his wins last year as he won by four lengths on the bridle.
If that’s what he can produce after such a long time off, imagine what he could produce with improvement – although there is one major caveat. Firstly, the dreaded bounce factor. This is shown by the small but incredibly eye catching (or worrying if, like me, you are a fan of the horse) sample size with over 30 horses having run at the Cheltenham Festival for the second time in a season with 600-day breaks – producing only one winner. That said, none were Altior. There are always different interpretations of statistics which result in many websites and analysts posting tips throughout the Cheltenham Festival 2018.
Min, who met Altior two seasons ago in the Supreme, is accepted not to have run to his best that day and was making into a fine novice chaser before injury intervened and robbed us of a rematch last year. Previously a deeply impressive winner of the Racing Post Novice Chase, his knee injury ruled him out of the spring before a visually impressive return at Gowran over 2m4f. He didn’t have much of a workout there – he did go off a 1/9 shot – but the style enthralled many and it was no surprise that he was sent off long odds on to take the Dial-A-Bet Chase.
However, he found things much tougher there and at many points looked to be struggling against Simply Ned through the straight before he drifted into the general line of Nicky Richards’ horse, and the disqualification that he suffered was deserved. However, that was arguably his first real race since last Christmas and he was a different horse when sitting off the lightning quick gallop in the Dublin Chase.
Special Tiara – the winner of this last year – set a terrific pace and jumped with the verve he’d last showed in March, stringing the field out by 15 lengths after the first fence and refusing to relent until well after the last, By tat time, Min, who was clearly in his element, was tracking him and ready to go and win the race in style, which he did, and announce himself as a huge player. He duly won by seven lengths and is sure to go well at the Festival, but it would not be a surprise if Special Tiara was able to improve on that effort.
Whilst he is now 11, it must be remembered that the better the ground, the better Special Tiara is, and should we get the same surface as last year, then he can surely be expected to go well again. He should improve physically too – he did not get a full runout in the Desert Orchid Chase and had only appeared in the Shloer Chase before that, his seasonal reappearance. He might be more restrained at the Festival but set a strong pace when outlasting his opposition last year and with his target absolutely confirmed, appeals as being overpriced at 16/1.
It will be a surprise to many that I have not mentioned Douvan, odds on for this race last year and serenely unbeaten before that, until now. However, at the time of writing, it is not a certainty that he will run in the Red Mills Chase at the weekend, and should he win that then the Ryanair begins to look the stronger option for him anyway.
Politologue had no answer to Altior in the Game Spirit but might not be the worst each/way option given that he was not going to have been at 100% either (due to a combination of race targeting and a January flu jab) and his extra stamina makes him an attractive choice here. He hasn’t put a foot wrong in jumping terms all season, especially in the Tingle Creek when he got the better of Fox Norton, and he can run well.
Un De Secaux is likelier to defend his title in the Ryanair, unless there was a deluge of rain. Great Field is an incredibly exciting horse, but his problems have robbed him of a clean crack at the race and he is next season’s horse. Last season’s neck second Fox Norton was out jumped when Politologue beat him in the Tingle Creek, and it could be that he’s happier at the Ryanair trip – he certainly looked it when he was a super winner of the Melling Chase at Aintree last season. Ar Mad was third in that race, but beaten fair and square whilst he’s better going right handed. Charbel, fourth there, doesn’t look good enough to run the finish out of a field this good. Yorkhill won’t be running here following his disappointing showing at Leopardstown, and neither will Top Notch unless the ground becomes seriously testing.
1 pt each/way Special Tiara, Champion Chase (16/1 general)