Lieutenant has first rate claims
Donn McClean returns with his preview of the Irish challenge on the third day of the Cheltenham Festival.
- Related Content
Aupcharlie could be the best of a strong Irish Jewson Chase team. Willie Mullins' horse is a super jumper of fences off good ground, he has Festival form, having finished third in Cheltenian's bumper, and he is dropping down to what is probably his optimum trip now after getting done for stamina over three miles on his last two runs. Interestingly, the two horses who beat him in those two runs were Back In Focus and Tofino Bay, who fought out the finish of yesterday's National Hunt Chase.
Interestingly, if Boston Bob hadn't fallen at the final fence in yesterday's RSA Chase, three of the four horses who fought out the finish of the Dr PJ Moriarty Chase at Leopardstown on Hennessy day would have fought out the finish of yesterday's race. That, together with the fact that Irish horses finished 1-2 in the National Hunt Chase, suggests that the Irish staying novices may be ahead of their British friends. The fourth horse who was involved in the finish to the Moriarty Chase? Texas Jack. That gives Noel Meade's horse a big chance today.
Jetson is interesting in the Pertemps Final. Trained for the race last year after winning the qualifier at Leopardstown, it was frustrating when he missed the cut by just two. This race has been his obvious target since then, and Jezki's older half-brother shaped well in finishing sixth in this year's Leopardstown qualifier.
Three places and eight lengths in front of Jetson in the Leopardstown qualifier was Stonemaster. That was an encouraging effort from Dessie Hughes' horse. He is not unexposed, but he was a staying-on sixth in the Coral Cup last year off a 7lb higher mark and that gives him a chance, with the trainer's horses in such tremendous form.
First Lieutenant has a massive chance in the Ryanair Chase. He may have been forced into this race a little by the presence of his owner's Sir Des Champs in the Gold Cup, but it may be that a stiff two miles and five furlongs run at a fast pace will be optimum for him anyway. He was probably out-stayed by Bobs Worth in the RSA Chase last year and again in this season's Hennessy, when he was a little free down the back straight.
Over the shorter trip, Davy Russell can be as aggressive on him as he likes. He is at his best going left-handed, the drying ground is in his favour, and this is the trip over which he won the Neptune Hurdle two years ago, when he beat subsequent Champion Hurdle winner Rock On Ruby.
The drying ground is a worry for Bog Warrior in the World Hurdle, but it will probably help Solwhit, who has good form on good ground and for whom the trip is an obvious worry, simply because he has never tried it before. He does stay two and a half miles on soft ground well, however, so he has every chance of staying three.
He was only a kick of a ball behind Hurricane Fly in his pomp, he proved his wellbeing by beating subsequent Red Mills Hurdle winner So Young easily at Naas in January and, if he does stay the three-mile trip, he could go close.
Romanesco and Vesper Bell are both interesting in the Kim Muir. Romanesco would surely have won the three-mile amateur riders' handicap chase at Cheltenham's October meeting had he not fallen at the final fence when he had just hit the front. He has since run a cracker to finish second in the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown off a mark of 125 on ground that should have been too soft for him. A mark of 131 today is fair, the drying ground is in his favour, and Nina Carberry has been booked for the ride for months.
Yesterday's National Hunt Chase was under consideration for Vesper Bell but, with Back In Focus on the team there was no need to spring him from the Mullins bench, and he runs today instead. The drying ground is a little bit of a concern, but he did run well over hurdles at Fairyhouse last April on good ground, so good to soft ground should be fine.
A strong stayer both over hurdles and over fences, the form of his run in the Punchestown Grand National Trial (off a mark of 138) last time is working out well, and a mark of 139 for today is fair. A seven-year-old who has run just three times over fences, he has the progressive profile and the potential to be a fair bit better than his current mark.
Arabella Boy, from the home of cross-country specialist Enda Bolger, looks rock solid in the Cross-Country Chase, although it wouldn't be surprising to see former RSA Chase winner Bostons Angel run well on just his second run at the track, now that he knows where the turns and the banks are.