Gallant Oscar has always looked a National type.
Many Clouds deserves to be bang at the top of the National market and it would be wonderful to see him become the first horse since Red Rum to win back to back renewals. He carries 1lb more than last year and is rated 5lb higher so this can be considered a better race 12 months on. You only have to look at the ratings of the last few getting in to draw the same conclusion. The Druids Nephew is back and 4lb worse off with last year’s winner but, of all those taking their chance again against the favourite, he makes the most appeal. We don’t know how he would have faired had he not come down when going well on the front end and I’d be very sweet on his chances but for the likely slower ground. The same can be said for Holywell who looks a well treated horse. His best runs have tended to come on better ground though and I just wonder if the weather may have hindered his chance for all he’s still very much on the shortlist. So too The Last Samuri but he’s short enough to sit back and watch. I have no shame in putting 3 up given the prices.
Shortest of the lot is Gallant Oscar who just missed out last year at the weights but went on to bolt up at Punchestown. He has clearly been campaigned with this in mind and it’s no dampener that Geraghty opts for Shutthefrontdoor, who showed up in this for such a long way last year. Gallant Oscar wasn’t really put in his race last time and has always looked a National type. Overnight rain Friday will be no negative either and I can see him going really well. Rebecca Curtis is a trainer back on song having struggled this season and both her runners are of particular interest. The Romford Pele has been progressive in headgear and he had a Pineau De Re like prep last time over hurdles at Cheltenham. That said, his jumping and conditions could be a concern but the same can’t be said for O’Faolains Boy. His trainer has always talked of him as a National type and his form ahead of Smad Place and Many Clouds 2 seasons back makes for encouraging reading. So too his form ahead of subsequent scorer Sausalito Sunrise. He’s not dissimilar in profile to Many Clouds who also ran well enough in the Gold Cup prior to going to Aintree and he’s bigger in the market than I thought he might be. Last up at a monster price is Vics Canvas. He’s 13 and not very big but he stays. He handled the fences fine in the Becher when a touch outpaced before keeping on and for all he may not be the best treated in the race, he has fewer questions to answer than some. I can see this soft ground Cork National winner massively outrunning his odds.
If In Doubt must have a super chance of redemption for his unlucky effort at Cheltenham in the staying handicap hurdle. He’s well found in the market though and perhaps At Fishers Cross has his best chance of the season now back in handicap company for the first time in over 3 years. He has the help of Jonathan Moore’s 5lb claim, a jockey who has some decent prizes to his name this term, and his mount is a course and distance winner in Grade 1 company. He’s not been completely out of form this season either, chasing home World Hurdle 2nd Alpha Des Obeaux at Gowran Park in January. He was pulled up last time at Cheltenham and is clearly not the horse of old but the yard are in better form than they have been all season and conditions should really suit this afternoon.
I’m not wiling to oppose any of the odds-on shots across the next 3 races and will instead save a play for the staying handicap chase. It’s another Rebecca Curtis horse too. Plenty of her horses do look fairly treated given a frustrating season and I’ve been looking forward to seeing Racing Pulse back up in trip with the yard in form. That happens this afternoon and 139 seems very fair given he was rated 144 over hurdles. Just shy of 3 miles suited in January, for which he is 9lb higher, and 2 subsequent starts can be forgiven on grounds of the yard not firing in January and the trip on the short side at Cheltenham. Some rain overnight would be no bad thing and he’s a very appealing price with cheekpieces on for the first time.