Paul Townend celebrates as Energumene wins the Champion Chase
Paul Townend celebrates as Energumene wins the Champion Chase

Big-name jumpers to watch including Energumene, Sir Gerhard and Paisley Park

We round up the notable horses among this week's entries, including Trials Day at Cheltenham and Sky Bet Chase day at Doncaster.


There are some good races elsewhere on Gowran’s card, though the biggest name is declared for the beginners chase where last season’s Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle winner Sir Gerhard is set to make his long-awaited chasing debut after a setback delayed his intended return over Christmas. A former winning pointer, he’s every inch a chaser on looks and should be up to making a successful debut over the larger obstacles even though Largy Debut sets a useful standard from placed efforts in all three of his chases.

The John Mulhern Galmoy Hurdle gives Davy Russell his best chance of a first big win since coming out of retirement as he partners Teahupoo here. Teahupoo took the scalps of Klassical Dream and Honeysuckle when stepped up in trip for the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle last time and while he’s going up further still in distance and has to give weight away all round, he will have underfoot conditions to suit and there are question marks about all his rivals, some of them better known as chasers.

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Longhouse Poet, for example, won the Thyestes Handicap Chase on this card last year and is presumably being geared towards another Grand National attempt, though he did win over hurdles at Limerick last time.

There may well be some Grand National clues in this year’s Thyestes in which Gordon Elliott fields no fewer than nine runners including the 2021 winner Coko Beach, last season’s Irish Grand National runner-up Frontal Assault and the first two from last month’s Porterstown Handicap Chase at Fairyhouse, Punitive and Fakiera. Heavy-ground specialist Pencilfulloflead hasn’t been easy to train and shaped as if needing his return at Clonmel but despite his big weight he looks on a good mark for his handicap debut with amateur Rob James taking 7 lb off his back. Several of these contested the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown last time and Henry de Bromhead’s Gabbys Cross could be the one to take out of that race as he’d have been closer than sixth but for some late errors.

Saturday - Cheltenham

Cheltenham stages its final meeting before the Festival where what already promised to be an informative Trials Day card has been boosted by the addition of the Clarence House Chase postponed from last week.

A slightly larger field than for the original Ascot race looks in store with Desert Orchid Chase winner Editeur du Gite and last season’s Queen Mother Champion Chase runner-up Funambule de Sivola (a long way back in fourth at Kempton) among the entries, though the two principals remain the same, with Champion Chase winner Energumene and Sporting Life Arkle winner Edwardstone now set to clash instead at the scene of their big wins here last March. The latter has boosted his reputation further with a top-class effort in the Tingle Creek Chase before a very rare jumping lapse in the Desert Orchid but that still leaves him with a bit to find against last year’s winner Energumene who will be hard to beat after winning the Hilly Way Chase at Cork last month for the second year running with any amount in hand.

Harry Skelton celebrates Protektorat's Betfair Chase win
Harry Skelton celebrates Protektorat's Betfair Chase win

The Paddy Power Cotswold Chase gives an opportunity for would-be Gold Cup contenders and Betfair Chase winner Protektorat, third in last year’s Gold Cup, looks to have the strongest claims after producing a career best at Haydock. The Rowland Meyrick runner-up Sounds Russian and Dusart, who beat that rival in a novices’ handicap at Ayr last season, step up in class but get a handy 6 lb from Protektorat, though perhaps Protektorat’s most interesting rival is Noble Yeats. He had a very untypical profile for a Grand National winner when successful as a novice last April and is a rare winner of the race to have thrived since, running a career best back at Aintree over regular fences last time when accounting for a field in the Many Clouds Chase that included Ahoy Senor, Sounds Russian and Sam Brown with plenty of authority.

Ahoy Senor gave weight and a beating to Noble Yeats in the Towton Novices’ Chase at Wetherby this time last year but has struggled with the transition from top novice to Gold Cup contender this season, though the King George last time wasn’t perhaps an ideal test for him. Frodon has run plenty of big races at Cheltenham, including winning this race four years ago, and will doubtless give it a good shot, though he’s likely to find a few too good again after finishing third in the Betfair and King George on his last couple of starts.

Aidan Coleman celebrates as Paisley Park wins a third Long Walk
Aidan Coleman celebrates as Paisley Park wins a third Long Walk

Another eleven-year-old might be a tougher nut to crack later on the card in the Dahlbury Stallions At Chapel Stud Cleeve Hurdle. Paisley Park has won the last three editions of this race, beating Champ last year, and had that rival behind him again when winning the Long Walk Hurdle, also for a third time, when it was transferred to Kempton on Boxing Day. There’s no Champ this time, but Dashel Drasher, runner-up in the Relkeel Hurdle here last time and the mare Molly Olly’s Wishes (also engaged at Doncaster) are potential dangers, while Paul Nicholls could switch Gelino Bello back to hurdles after his fall in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase last time.

On a nine-race card that also accommodates the cross-country chase postponed from the November meeting, other names to note are wide-margin Newbury winner Jupiter du Gite in the Grade 2 juvenile hurdle, last year’s Festival winner Delta Work who goes for another cross-country win, and Stolen Silver who could bid to go one place better in the handicap chase after his good second in a similar event here on New Year’s Day.

Saturday – Doncaster

The Sky Bet Handicap Chase takes pride of place on Doncaster’s card. Cap du Nord has finished third in the last two years and is prominent in the betting again though was beaten a long way last time and could find himself out of the handicap if the top weights stand their ground. Paddy Power Gold Cup winner Ga Law (also entered at Cheltenham) would be trying a new trip here but is still improving while Dusart would have top weight to carry if running here instead of in the Cotswold Chase. Novice Tea For Free would have to enter calculations after winning all four of his starts this season and he loked ready to contest a bigger prize when comfortably making all for his latest success at Newbury.

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Doncaster also features three Grade 2 contests, with former Champion Hurdle winner Epatante the main attraction in the Yorkshire Rose Mares’ Hurdle where she faces a much easier task than when chasing home stablemate Constitution Hill in her last couple of starts. Tommy’s Oscar is another to have come up against Constitution Hill this season but has the opportunity to win for a second time over fences in the MND Association Race For Research Lightning Novices’ Chase. However, this looks a potentially hot contest with the Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase one-two Boothill and Aucunrisque and the hat-trick seeking Haddex des Obeaux and Saint Segal, both stepping up from handicaps, also among the entries.

There are plenty of progressive types in the Albert Bartlett River Don Novices’ Hurdle over three miles, including Stay Away Fay who made a promising debut for Paul Nicholls when winning at Newbury in November and will appreciate this longer trip. One with his stamina fully proven is Grand Soir who completed a hat-trick when successful at Thurles last time and has to be respected for John McConnell who took this prize back to Ireland last year.


Naas’s Sunday card features a couple of Grade 3 contests, including the Limestone Lad Hurdle where Bob Olinger features among the entries as he bids to get his once very promising career back on track. A drop back to two miles looks like another experiment by connections after he disappointed again when tried over three last time, though he does travel strongly and he’s been given a Champion Hurdle entry. Bob Olinger's potential rivals are a mixed bag, however, including Meet And Greet who finished in front of him last time when third at 50/1 in the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown and smart mare Echoes In Rain who was threatening to play a part in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle when falling two out. The consistent Darasso won this last year but he’s been running over longer trips over fences of late, winning a listed contest at Thurles last time.

The Grade 3 novice chase features several with the potential to do better over fences, including Gentlemansgame for Mouse Morris and Ramillies for Willie Mullins, each successful on their respective chasing debuts at Leopardstown and Thurles last month. A number of others have alternative engagements, including Chemical Energy, successful at Cheltenham last time, and Gold Cup Bailly, winner of all three of his starts over fences, the last two at Ayr, both of whom have options at Cheltenham on Saturday. Mahler Mission was a long way behind Chemical Energy at Cheltenham but has performed much better since, getting off the mark over fences at Navan last weekend.

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