Jim Bolger usually pulls a rabbit from the hat most seasons with a big improver and this year, QATARI HUNTER (best price 15-2) seems to be the one going forward at a rate of knots. Since capturing a strongly-run handicap at the Curragh off a mark of 74 back in June, the son of Footstepsinthesand has risen through the ranks to a tune of 28lb and he rounded off his fine sequence of wins with another polished performance at Leopardstown last time out. Coming from an unpromising position at a track where it often pays to be handy, he showed an impressive turn of foot in the final two furlongs to gun down track specialist Tennessee Wildcat in the dying strides (best sectionals in card). Although he’s unproven over today’s trip, his strong-finishing bursts he’s exhibited suggests he should have no trouble staying an extra two furlongs and in a Group 3 where there doesn’t appears to be any superstars, he could just have that necessary zip that tips the balance in his favour.
RATHMUCK NATIVE (NAP) (best price 8-1) arrives here right on top of her game and she looks poised to run a huge race with plenty seemingly in her favour. An easy winner at Cork two starts ago, Peter Fahey’s charge followed up at Sligo last time in even more convincing fashion, pulling right away from a small, but select field of mares with a bit to spare. The way she travelled throughout that contest off the back of sound fractions (last circuit quicker by four seconds than rest of the card) suggests she will have no trouble laying up in what should turn out to be a soundly-run affair and having also proved herself able to cope with an undulating track on soft ground, the daughter of Definite Article has pretty much all bases covered.
KYLLANG ROCK (best price 22-1) might have only won a maiden at Windsor last time out, but he did it in the style of a possible pattern race performer and that theory is put to the test straight away as he tackles Group company on only his third start. The way he travelled his way through that strongly-run affair at the Berkshire track indicated he’s a horse with loads of tactical speed and providing Andrea Atzeni can follow the right horses through to carry him into the business end of the race, James Tate’s charge has a decent chance of pulling off the upset.
In what looks to be one of the classiest renewals of this valuable and prestigious prize in recent times, SHANTOU FLYER (best price 14-1) and LORD SCOUNDREL (best price 33-1) are taken as the value options against the field. The former has always had a touch of quality (runner-up in a Grade 2 hurdle as novice) and having begun life over fences in the best possible fashion with a resounding success over today’s course last year, connections must surely have had one eye on this prize ever since. In the interim, Colin Bowe’s inmate has run some sound races against some of the very best young chasers around and a victory at Cheltenham at the Showcase meeting confirmed him as a force to be reckoned with when he gets conditions in his favour. A creditable fifth in the Grade 1 at the Punchestown Festival rounded off a successful campaign for the son of Shantou and then freshened up, he returned to action with a nice prep-run for today’s big prize by finishing second in the Plate Trial at Down Royal 40 days ago. Sure to be at fever-pitch following than effort, the six-year-old makes plenty of appeal on account of his sound-jumping and being one of the few with winning C&D form.
The latter also proved himself adept to these tricky fences when landing a novices’ chase over this course back in October and he, too, looks to have been laid out for the race by shrewd connections. Although not your typical chasing type, he does jump well for a relatively small horse (very much in the mould of Roi Du Mee) and having been placed in numerous Graded races, he also has enough class to take a hand in the finish with a clear round.
Although a little long in the fang, there may be one more decent pot left in perennial Ballybrit regular CAIRDIUIL (best price 7-1) in race where he has such a fine record. Since 2012, his form figures at this meeting when racing in his own grade read 222132 and if it wasn’t for the whirlwind finish of Beau Satchel (won here yesterday) twelve months ago, Iggy Madden’s charge would have put the icing on the cake to that already impressive set of numbers. Likely to be all the better for his most recent outing when fifth in a well-run race at Gowran, has a nice enough draw to use as a springboard to another positive display around his happy hunting ground.
*****HAVE A PINT WITH ANDY*****
You and a mate can win the chance to have lunch with Andy Holding in London on Monday 1st August.
All you have to do to enter is tell us the winner of this year’s Aintree Grand National that Andy tipped at 50/1.
Tweet us @Oddschecker with your answer and the #LunchWithHolding
The prize includes food and drinks for both you and a friend. You must be available to travel to Hammersmith, London on Monday 1st August for 1pm. The prize does NOT include transport.