On to day two of the Festival where the Champion Chase is always the highlight. The question is what the ground will be like as it looks as though the rain is due to come in later on Wednesday. If that hits earlier, like it did last year, it could have a massive impact.
1:30 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle
This is a really open race. Impaire Et Passe was very impressive in Punchestown in January. He looks a quality individual and you have to respect the positive vibes coming from the Mullins camp. Hermes Allen is going to face his biggest test so far and he’s going to face it from a lot of sides. Challow Hurdle winners have a bad record in this race, but he has been very good in all three starts over hurdles.
GAELIC WARRIOR won a really competitive two-mile handicap hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival. He does have a tendency to jump right, but with enough cover on the outside he should be fine. He must have a big chance. He’s top rated in the field and was unlucky in the Boodles 12 months ago when losing out to Brazil. He’s more experienced now and there is potential for improvement stepping up in trip
Good Land is a quality horse for Barry Connell. It was a fine performance last month in Leopardstown where he beat them easily. He’ll be well suited by conditions and he’s a big player in this. Champ Kiely also put in a good display to win the Lawlor’s Of Naas in January.
There are loads in there with chances and I certainly wouldn’t rule out American Mikesneaking into the places at a monster price. He was one of the best bumper horses around last season and the step up in trip on soft ground could see him improve.
Impaire Et Passe is the one they have to beat judging from all the vibes and he should have enough stamina in his pedigree, but for me the value is with Gaelic Warrior.
2:10 Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase
I’ve nailed my colours to the mast here – I’m all in on SIR GERHARD. He’s just a very classy horse. He’s been to the Festival twice and won twice, including the Ballymore last year in a swamp. You never know until they try but he shouldn’t have any problem with stamina. He was late out this season which is the reason why he has only had the one opportunity over fences but, with the exception of one mistake in Gowran, he was really good.
Gerri Colombe is a very good horse and of course I absolutely respect him, but the level of Sir Gerhard’s form is in a different league. Thyme Hill was much better in the Kauto Star at Kempton over Christmas and he has run well at the Festival in the past. The Real Whacker jumped brilliantly in the Dipper but this is a big step up for him.
2:50 Coral Cup
Classy horses often win the Coral Cup and I like the look of FIL DOR in this. Gordon [Ellliott] is claiming 5lbs off him and Ben Harvey is a very good rider. He actually rode Constitution Hill in his point-to-point – and got beaten on him! Fil Dor has only ever raced over two miles, but on pedigree and what we’ve seen on the track, he should appreciate stepping up in trip.
He was second in the Triumph Hurdle last year and after a few runs over fences, he beat Sharjah and Doctor Bravo in the Red Mills Hurdle at Gowran last month. That is strong form and I think there is more to come with the extra distance.
Run For Oscar is interesting but I’d be a bit worried about the ground for him, so I’ll throw another five-year-old into the mix. HMS SEAHORSE ran well in the Boodles last year and he was then very good over two and a half miles in Navan last month. That was his first run back after a break and being gelded, and he ran like a horse who had more to offer.
3:30 Champion Chase
Regardless of the ground, I will be going with ENERGUMENE in this, but I’ll be even sweeter on him if it’s turned really soft. Edwardstone is the big danger and he’s been brilliant this season, especially in the Tingle Creek at Sandown. Arkle winners have a very good record in this race.
Tom Cannon followed Paul Townend in the Clarence House and Niall Houlihan got the run of the race up front on Editeur Du Gite. It was a very good ride by Niall. Edwardstone paid the price for having to make up the ground on the winner and he just didn’t have anything left to give when Editeur Du Gite fought back. Soft ground will be fine for Gary Moore’s runner, but I do think he is better suited by the New Course with the extra emphasis on stamina.
4:10 Cross Country Chase
Gordon Elliott had a one-two in this race 12 months ago and it could be the same again this year. DELTA WORK spoiled the Tiger Roll party last year on heavy, so we know he will have no problem with conditions. If it was good ground, I’d be with Galvin, but he has more to prove on soft. Delta Work also ran really well behind Back On The Lash here on Trials Day, giving him loads of weight and he’ll do for me.
4:50 Grand Annual Chase
The Grand Annual is always a very difficult race to unravel and there have been plenty of shocks over the years, but JP [McManus] looks to hold a strong hand this year with ANDY DUFRESNE and Dinoblue at the head of the market. Andy Dufresne was second last year and although he’s struggled a bit since, he’s a good horse and this will have been the plan.
5:30 Champion Bumper
JP also has two big bullets to fire in the Bumper. A Dream To Share was really good at the Dublin Racing Festival, a performance which saw JP decide to snap him up. He deserves to be favourite based on what he has done, but I wouldn’t be surprised if FACT TO FILE, another in JP’s colours, turns the form around.
He has won over two and a half miles, is a six-year-old and will like the ground. It was yielding ground the last day and they didn’t go overly quick which wouldn’t have played to his strengths. Patrick [Mullins] has also chosen him which is a tip in itself. He is trying to become the winning most jockey in the race (currently level with Ruby on three winners) and his dad has won it an incredible 12 times, including the last three years.