13:30 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle
The race definitely revolves around Willie Mullins. He certainly holds the aces here with four of the ten runners. There’s been a lot of talk about Impaire Et Passe, who’s now replaced Hermes Allen as favourite for the race. Strictly on ratings you’d have to consider Gaelic Warrior. He’s 7Ibs clear of Hermes Allen and 9Ibs clear of Impaire Et Passe. He won a competitive handicap hurdle around Leopardstown as he liked and he’s only a 5yo. To be honest I’ve been a Hermes Allen fan all along. He is one of Paul Nicholls’ big hopes for the week. He was very impressive when winning the Challow Hurdle at Newbury and that form is working out well. The runner-up, You Wear It Well, went on to win a Grade 2 Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at Sandown, that Love Envoi won last year enroute to Cheltenham Festival success. And there’s a few others that have come out subsequently and ran really well. He also showed at Newbury that he handles soft ground. So it’s very much Nicholls versus the Mullins battalion. Any one of Willie’s four could win this, it just shows the strength in depth he has. However I’m going to side with Hermes Allen. He seems to save his best for the racecourse and what we’ve seen of him has been really impressive. Reading between the lines, the vibes coming out of Ditcheat have been good, so they’re obviously hopeful of a very big run.
Selection: Hermes Allen
14:10 Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase
Sir Gerhard is really interesting. He’s the class horse of the race being a dual Festival winner. Ordinarily you’d side with him, however he’s only had the one start over fences and that was over two miles. I’m sure he’ll have done plenty of schooling, but the one run under his belt would put me off. Gerri Colombe is unbeaten and looked very good at Sandown. He steps up in trip and that should suit him. I know the Skelton’s think an awful lot of their mare. She bounced back after a disappointing run at Christmas to win well at Warwick and she gets the 7Ibs mares allowance. That Christmas run where her jumping just went to pot early on was of course the race in which Thyme Hill won. He wouldn’t be your typical novice being a 9yo, but he is a proper Grade 1 performer, having won Grade 1s over hurdles as well. However at the prices and given how highly the Skelton’s regard her, my slight preference would be for Galia Des Liteaux.
Selection: Galia Des Liteaux
14:50 Coral Cup
I don’t have a particular strong opinion on this race, It’s very much a stab in the dark. Camprond was well fancied for this last year but was undone by the slow conditions. He then went on to win at the Punchestown Festival. Looking at the forecast there’s a lot of rain due to come in on Wednesday so that may scupper his chances as his best form in on better ground. Albeit he’s only 1Ib higher than his Punchestown win. Good Risk At All has some good pieces of form. He disappointed the last day over 3m but has been given a good break. If I was pushed on it and in all honesty it would really only be a token selection I’d like to see Benson collect the big bonus. He’s in excellent form, hasn’t been out of the first two in his five runs this season and he goes on soft ground.
15:30 Queen Mother Champion Chase
Not too dissimilar to the Mares’ Hurdle, you could run this race a few times and get a few different results. I feel it’s between the top three in the market, Edwardstone, Energumene and Editeur Du Gite. It’s hard to separate them. A lot will come down to the horse that gets everything right. You don’t get a second chance in a two mile Championship race over fences. I remember Azertyuiop leaving his back legs in the water one year and that was his race over. You’ve got to be slick and quick and can’t afford any mishaps. Energumene disappointed in the Clarence House. He didn’t jump with his usual fluency. They apparently put it down to the colour change of the fences from orange to white. That has prompted Willie to revamp his schooling grounds. So it will be interesting to see what Energumene we’ll see on Wednesday. If it was an excuse the last day, it won’t be an excuse this time. However I’ve always liked Edwardstone. He was very good in Tingle Creek, and I really think he can follow up his Arkle Chase success from last year.
16:10 Cross Country Chase
Gordon Elliott definitely holds the key to this race with the first two in the betting. He had the 1-2 in this last year, although maybe not in the order that everyone was hoping or expecting. It’s not very original, but I think he could easily have another 1-2. Both Delta Work and Galvin are clear on ratings. This will be Galvin’s first run over the course, but that shouldn’t put anyone off coming out of Gordon’s yard. He wouldn’t be going for it if they didn’t think he’d take to it. I can’t see anything else in the line-up that will pose a danger. You do tend to get specialists in this Cross Country race, so I’d be going for Delta Work to retain his title.
Selection: Delta Work
16:50 Grand Annual Chase
It’s a fiercely competitive handicap with a maximum field of 20. So not the easiest of races to try and find the winner! Dinoblue is clearly less exposed hence the reason she’s favourite. It’s one of those races where you have plenty of exposed ones, a few less exposed and then you could have one of those older horses who bounces back to form having slipped in the weights. Croco Bay and last year’s winner Global Citizen being two good examples of that in recent years. However I’d be inclined to look for an improving novice and Gavin Cromwell’s Final Orders definitely fits that bill. He’s run up a sequence, winning his last five races. He won a nice prize at the Dublin Racing Festival. He went up 10Ibs for that win, but he’s a novice with plenty of experience. Although looking at his price, he certainly hasn’t been missed in the market, so there’s plenty thinking along similar lines!
Selection: Final Orders
17:30 Champion Bumper
Simon Munir and Isaac Souede have two big chances in this. It’s For Me looked impressive when winning at Navan. And they also have the mare Fun Fun Fun who won at the Dublin Racing Festival. I suppose the feel good story would be Queens Gamble for Oliver Sherwood. I’d forgive her for her Market Rasen defeat as the track wouldn’t have played to her strengths. However the Irish have really had a stranglehold on this race, they’ve won the last six runnings and that looks set to continue. A Dream To Share looked really good at Leopardstown and he’s been snapped up by JP. Willie Mullins has 10 of the 24 runners which is just extraordinary. You’d expect half of these to turn up and be running in the novice hurdle races at Cheltenham next year. It’s just an embarrassment of riches. I’m not entirely sure, but I suspect Patrick would have first pick. He knows those bumper horses better than anyone else. He’s probably ridden all of them, so you’d have to ask yourself why he’s chosen Fact To File. He was 2nd behind A Dream To Share at the Dublin Racing Festival, so he must think the softer ground might bridge the gap and it’s probably a good a pointer as any.
Selection: Fact To File
Best of luck,