13:30 – Ballymore Novices Hurdle
This race looks like the most fascinating of the novice hurdle contests that we have on offer and after studying it in quite some detail, I’ve decided I can’t see past 15/8 chance Impaire Et Passe who possesses an electric turn of foot.
This horse has looked like an absolute weapon on the track and from all the noise that’s been made about him on the preview circuit, he sounds like he’s been working extremely well at home too. He’s not yet raced over a trip this far but when making his Irish debut, he stormed home to win by 18 lengths over 2m3f which isn’t too dissimilar.
He won the Moscow Flyer at Punchestown in January which Willie likes to send a talented novice hurdler to and there is no doubt in my mind that this lad is exceptionally talented. He has such a calm way of going about his racing, jumps well, has a deadly chance of pace and I fancy him to take the scalps of the grade 1 winners in the field.
14:10 – Brown Advisory Novices Chase
One of the bankers of the week for many is Irish raider Gerri Colombe at 7/4 who runs in the Brown Advisory. This horse is familiar with English shores after winning Sandown’s Scilly Isles Novice Chase which shows he has no issue with travelling over. His rider that day Jordan Gainford retains the ride after giving him a peach at Sandown.
He looked to be beaten at one point but the stamina reserves kicked in and he actually won snugly in the end, suggesting this step up in trip would suit him down to the ground.
So far to date he’s won 7 out of 7 starts and looks like he has a magnificent chance of making it 8 in this intriguing contest. He isn’t the highest rated in the field as that accolade belongs to Thyme Hill who was a great hurdler but looks a bit dubious over fences. I think the Irish take this prize back home courtesy of Gerri.
15:30 – Queen Mother Champion Chase
Not quite a vintage renewal of the Champion Chase but it is fascinating that this a division where the top 3 in the market have all already faced each other this season which can’t be said for many of the other grade 1 events.
It’s undoubtedly tricky but tentative preference is given to last year’s victor Energumene at 7/4. I wasn’t too disheartened with his run in the rescheduled Clarence House chase at Cheltenham in January and although a lot of judges were, I’m keeping the faith!
He won this event last year by 8 and a half lengths and backed that up by beating Chacun Pour Soi the same distance in Punchestown.
I can forgive him for one bad run the last day, he never jumped particularly well and I think a return to the old course will definitely benefit him.
It took Willie Mullins ages to win his first gold cup then he won 2 in a row so after Energumene delivered him his first Champion Chase, it would be fitting if he could back it up the year after!.