Darren Goodbody previews the JLT and Ryanair Chases
Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh have won this on three ocassions from six renewals and once more are very well represented here with Un De Sceaux. The 2015 Arkle Trophy winner who was also runner up in the Queen Mothers Chase last season comes into this off the back of landing the Clarence House Chase when defeating Uxizandre by five lengths, which saw on that day recent Queen Mother Chase winner Special TIara way back in fifth over thirty lengths behind the winner. He looked a peach that day at Cheltenham last time out, his jumping was slick, never looked in trouble despite his awkward moment when almost blundering his win two out, but he asserted in fine style.
One of his main adversaries looks to be Gordon Elliott’s Empire of Dirt. Last years festival plate winner will be a stone heavier this year, the third season chaser started his campaign season which saw him win with plenty in hand at Navan, winning by four lengths in the Grade B Troytown Handicap Chase when off a mark of 148. He was submitted into Grade 1 company when just denied to three parts of a length behind Sizing John in the Stan James Irish Gold Cup which saw Gold Cup hopeful More of That a faller. His Festival win last year really puts him in the mix against a field that does have questions to answer.
With Nicky Henderson the master of getting horses back to their best JOSSES HILL could be the value of the race. The 2014 Supreme runner up and placed Arkle contender will have something to find against one of his rivals here this afternoon in Un De Sceaux who beat him two seasons ago by ten lengths. His run in this last year was too bad to be true when only finishing eigth behind the mighty Vautour, but the new season kicked off well when recording wins at Kempton and Huntingdon which included him landing the Peterborough Chase by eight lengths when beating Tea For Two.
For me he never got the King George V1 trip at Kempton on boxing day when behind Thistlecrack to six and a half lengths. Looking at that run despite finishing last of the five runners he was not really beaten that far. Dropping back to two and a half miles is really going to give him a cracking chance of reviving his resume and bring his season to 3-4. Henry De Bromhead got a welcoming winner here yesterday when his entry Special Tiara ran out a worthy winner of the Queen Mothers Chase.
His entry here is Sub Lieutenant who’s season is going reasonably well. My reservations are will he be able to handle the undulating course such as Cheltenham. His last win over two and a half miles came last March when winning the Grade 3 Naas Director’s Plate Novice’s Chase on ground that was far softer than he will compete on this afternoon. Are we seeing a yard starting to turn a corner, they say a winner is only around the corner, Special Tiara’s showed that, but Danny Mullins has not ridden a winner since Mid December and is on the cold list of jockey’s.
It is an intriguing contest, Un De Sceaux could give Mullins another winner on the day if turning up, he holds the selection from last years race and if on song is the one to beat. Empire of Dirt has been in great form also, but i am not convinced the Irish Gold Cup form is worthy of thinking he could win this race, Sub Lieutenant looks on paper to have good claims, but again the booking of an out of form jockey does not help, so on them claims I will give JOSSES HILL the nod and could put him further clear of Paul Nicholl’s in the trainers championship.
JOSSES HILL : 2pt Win @ 9/1 (BOG)
JLT NOVICES’ CHASE
It’s been a tough first couple of days for Willie Mullins, with Melon beaten on the first day and the banker for most bets Douvan finishing lame with a limb problem, questions are being asked on most social media websites is there problems within. I was surprised to see so many tweets revolving around that Ruby Walsh had given Douvan a questionable ride and that the horse was useless, obviously they do not appreciate a 8 time Grade 1 winner, fair enough the horse was a banker and at 2/9 he was the best horse in the race. Getting back to reality Douvan or any horse can be beaten despite what price or how good they claim to be, he never traveled and was beaten a long way from home, now an injury has come to light, it’s not an excuse as some will feel, at the end of the day that is racing.
So do we expect Mullin’s and Walsh to come back with serious ammunition, absolutely and I would like to think “YORKHILL” will turn the tide on their festival luck. Festival form has to be respected which has been a strong attribute already this week. Last years Neptune winner has overcome his shock defeat at the Punchestown festival last season with two solid wins which included the Grade 3 Money Back On Fallers Novice Chase at Leopardstown at the back-end of January. He just would not settle last time out and showed a strong tendency to jump out to the left, his erratic jumping at times tends to leave you with concerns at times, and he did not have it that easy at Leopardstown when 2/11 in the market, he was only just doing enough to hold Jessica Harrington’s Jett by one and a quarter lengths. This would definitely be a welcoming winner for the Mullins camp and most of all the punters to take some money back form the bookies.
Paul Nicholls has not seen the winning enclosure since the 5th of March and is still looking for his first festival winner of 2017.The champion trainer and two time winner of this race is currently trailing Nicky Henderson in the challenge for the trainers title after the Henderson camp had a cracking second day, the yard are very well represented here with Politologue. This will be his second visit to the festival after finishing a long way back in last years Coral Cup. Since diverting to fences he has started to show some of his promise which has seen him win the Grade 2 Mitie Noel Novices Chase at Ascot before Christmas. He was surprisingly beaten in the Grade 2 Cheltenham Preview Novices Chase at Haydock Park, but bounced back when beating Pain Au Chocolat at Kempton Park by eleven lengths last month.
Politologue I feel will have to really step up to turnover the likes of Yorkhill this afternoon, he is most definitely an exciting chasing prospect and with only being a six year old there is plenty of time to turn him into a nice staying chaser. Nicky Henderson could not be in more blistering form, training the 1-2 in the RSA Chase yesterday, he also hit the bar when just denied in the Fred Winter with Divin Bere who just failed to reel in Flying Tiger at the finish. The leading trainer at present for this years trainer title is represented here with Kilcrea Vale and Top Notch. The former has done nothing wrong since going chasing, winning two of his three starts over fences to date and has progressed well enough, but to suggest he can spring a surprise in this off his current mark of 142 is going to be to far beyond him.
Top Notch though has Cheltenham form, he was unlucky to of not won the Triumph hurdle two seasons ago when beaten a neck by stablemate Peace and Co, he returned the following year to compete in the Champion hurdle when behind Annie Power, it was a strong contended renewal which saw the likes of My Tent Or Yours finish second that day who has suffered another runners up spot at this years festival when behind Buveur D’Air in this years Champion hurdle. His defeat by Charbel on chasing debut at Uttoxeter was not that bad actually, considering he was having his first run since last years festival he was seen only losing by one and a quarter lengths. Since then he has managed to go on a four run winning sequence which he was rewarded with the Grade 1 Scilly Isles Novices Chase at Sandown Park when beating Baron Alco who has an entry in this years Festival Plate. Top Notch looks for me more comfortable with some give in the ground, even though he has won on good ground, this is tougher around Prestbury Park, he has run on good ground here last year and could only finish fifth.
With three Irish trained winners from six renewals you would of though the winner would be coming out of Ireland to take the race back over the Irish sea, its St Patricks Day and the Irish contingent will be out in force. Noel Meade will attempt to out class his Irish adversaries when he saddles his French bred six year old Disko. He looked a really nice chasing prospect when hacking up by eight lengths at Punchestown back in October, but he was beaten out of sight when upped into Graded company. Beaten by A Toi Phil to twelve lengths in the Grade 2 Florida Pearl Novices Chase and then once more beaten by just over a length in the Grade 1 Neville Hotels Novices Chase, he had to bounce back and did so when reversing the form that day with A Toi Phil by thirteen lengths, that was over three miles. Six weeks off he returned to Leopardstown where he reversed the form with Our Duke and had A Toi Phil well back even further. He drops back to 19f, a distance he will compete for the first time, Bryan Cooper has landed the ride for the first time since he won on Disko as a hurdler two season’s ago and has a fairly good knowledge of the horse.
There will be punters out there laying the Mullins horses at present with the way they are finishing off their races, but I feel this will be Ireland’s day and most of all YORKHILL’S who can show he is not on the same resume of disappointments so far at the festival for camp Mullins. Disko has to be respected dropping back to 19f and has Bryan Cooper in the saddle who has already ridden a winner at this years festival with Apple’s Jade. Top Notch and Politologue would probably have to step up once more to get close to the selection, with Politologue a nice chasing prospect for the future.
5pt Win : YORKHILL @ 11/8 (BOG)