Andy Holding looks at the Irish contenders on the opening day of the festival.
1.30 Supreme Novices' Hurdle
Once again, the raiding party look to have a strong hand in this traditional curtain-raiser and all eyes will be on MIN
to repeat the same feat achieved by the likes of Champagne Fever, Vautour and Douvan. Following in the footsteps of the latter-named pair, Willie Mullins’ inmate landed the Moscow Flyer in spectacular fashion on his most recent outing and with the winning time suggesting it was a performance of the highest order, he’s likely to make them all go if he settles nicely and gets into a good early rhythm. Of the rest, there’s good vibes emulating from the SUPASUNDAE
camp and he enters calculations based on his fine effort from the front in last year’s Champion Bumper and drying ground, while both SILVER CONCORDE
could pick up some valuable prize money if they can raise their game on this quicker surface.
Min - 1pt @ 2/1
2.10 Arkle Chase
has looked a freak ever since embarking on a chasing career and only a fall would prevent him from preserving his unbeaten record. Having chased home Willie Mullins’ inmate on several occasions over hurdles and fences, SIZING JOHN
makes the most appeal in the ‘without the favourite’ market. A sound jumper himself, Henry De Bromhead’s charge has done little wrong on his three starts over the larger obstacles and the better ground – which he’s yet to encounter this season – will help his cause no end.
Douvan - 1pt @ 2/5
2.50 Ultima Handicap Chase
A race for which the ‘away’ team haven’t got a particularly strong record, but there’s every chance MORNING ASSEMBLY
can go some way to altering the poor stats. A fine third in a cracking renewal of the RSA Chase back in 2013, Pat Fahy’s charge arrives here off the back of two solid performances against top-class opposition this season and off a nice handicap mark with Davy Russell booked, a positive show looks very much on the cards.
Morning Assembly - 1pt @ 14/1
3.30 Champion Hurdle
Without Faugheen, this year’s renewal lacks any great marquee performer with the possible exception of ANNIE POWER. Unbeaten in all her seven starts over 2m, she also has the sufficient stamina and class to prove a cut above the rest and 9/4 doesn’t seem too bad a price for one of the few proven Grade 1 horses in the field. The other two genuine topnotchers based on their form in the Fighting Fifth and Ryanair Hurdles are IDENTITY THEIF
and NICHOLS CANYON
and the former just gains the nod as the best each-way player of the pair based on his overall progression and likely further improvement due to the better ground.
Identity Thief - 1pt @ 15/2
4.10 Mares' Hurdle
Similarly to both Quevega and Annie Power, VROUM VROUM MAG
has proved unbeatable against her own sex and having had this race as her main target ever since she bolted up at Ascot last time out, it would come as something of a surprise if she fails to keep the prize in the Mullins trophy cabinet.
Vroum Vroum Mag - 1pt @ 11/10
4.50 National Hunt Chase
may have claimed two valuable staying handicaps this season had she not fallen at the last and if she can avoid mishap this time around, there’s every chance Mags Mullins’ charge can make up for those untimely exits. Back on track with a confidence-boosting victory at Thurles the last day, the daughter of King’s Theatre should prove a lively danger to all with a clear round.
The Giggingstown Stud operation had plenty to choose from in this stamina test, so it has to be significant that they rely on MEASUREOFMYDREAMS
to do duty ahead of several sexier types from the entry list. Although he may have been a slightly fortuitous winner of a Grade 2 contest at Navan last time, he was still putting it up to his stable mate Black Hercules when he capsized at the last and he looks just the type who will be well suited by this examination paper. Runner-up that day, NOBLE ENDEAVOR
has to come into the argument based on his overall performances so far over fences and let’s not forget he very much came to the boil in the Martin Pipe at last year’s festival. The other Mullins-trained pair PONT ALEXANDRE
and PLEASANT COMPANY
both have a touch of class and could easily figure if they get the trip, while SHANTOU FLYER
makes up a strong team from the Gaelic raiders now racing back on better ground.
Ballychorus - 1pt @ 14/1
5.30 Novices' Handicap Chase
Only bits and pieces of chances here it would seem with just three left to do duty for the Irish, with the pick of the trio being McKINLEY
. A Grade 1 winner over hurdles last season, Willie Mullins’ gelding should find this sort of opposition a good deal less taxing than those he took on at Leopardstown last time out and the better ground will definitely enhance his chances. Both DOMESDAY BOOK
and BRIDGETS PET
are grand sorts, but they might be up against it on the bear level of their overall form.
McKinley - 1pt @ 18/1