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The opening Grade 1 on Sunday is clearly a match between Quilixios who returns after a break and YOUMDOR, who fell at the last hurdle at Fairyhouse last month. Gordon Elliott has an extremely strong hand in the juvenile division and has decided to side with the Cheveley Park runner, with Zanahiyr and Duffle Coat not in the mix for this race.
Quilixios, The son of Maxios, won in France before moving to Cullentra House and succeeding on both Irish starts at Punchestown and Down Royal in October. The manner of both victories was visually impressive, but the form hasn’t jumped off the page since with only the Punchestown second, Scholastic, returning to the level and winning at Dundalk.
Youmdor has a similar profile coming from France and ran out an easy winner on his Irish debut at Gowran Park in November. The son of Youmzain can secure compensation having crashed out at the last hurdle when racing all over Teahupoo at Fairyhouse and can book his place in the Triumph hurdle.
The most likely winner of all our Grade 1 races this weekend for me is APPRECIATE IT, who represents the powerful Closutton team. His bumper form last season was extremely solid following back-to-back wins at this venue and finishing second to stable-mate Ferny Hollow in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham.
His hurdles form so far stands out against this opposition and besides an accident, he’ll secure his second Grade 1 and cement his position at the top of the Supreme Novices Hurdle betting. He smoothly raced to front late on to ease past Master McShee when winning his maiden hurdle at Cork, before beaten several of these rivals here over Christmas.
He travels well and has natural cruising speed for the minimum trip, while also having stamina in reserve if required for a battle. This horse has it all in bundles and if there are any future Cheltenham Festival winners among the array of talent this weekend, Appreciate It is certainly on the shortlist.
Faugheen brought the house down when winning this race last year and it would be a surprise if Monkfish doesn’t provide the Willie Mullins team with back-to-back wins in the Flogas. The Albert Barlett winner was always doing enough when following up his Fairyhouse victory with success over Latest Exhibition in Grade 1 company over Christmas.
It was a solid performance, and this is another stepping stone before his return to Prestbury Park to tackle the Festival Novices’ Chase. Latest Exhibition wears a tongue-tie and previously beat ANDY DUFRESNE over hurdles at Navan in December 2019.
The Gordon Elliott runner has gone under the radar slightly and was always highly thought of by connections following his point-to-point win at Borris House. He missed Cheltenham last year and clearly needs to improve from his wins over fences at Wexford and Navan. He could reach the frame with Mark Walsh deciding to ride over Janidil and he looks a nice each-way bet.
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Clerk of the course Lorcan Wyer gave an excellent drone overview of the track on Thursday and highlighted the chase course is a little longer having been edged out slightly towards the ambulance road.
The five declared runners for the Irish Gold Cup know each other extremely well and another fascinating contest is surely on the cards, with four of these top chasers renewing rivalries following a smashing finish to the Savills Chase.
KEMBOY is the most solid selection, with Danny Mullins replacing the now retired David Mullins in the saddle with Paul Townend riding Melon. The nine-year-old was second to Delta Work in this race last year with Gordon Elliott’s runner not sparking this season. Kemboy will lead from the front and can uphold the Savills Chase form with Minealla Indo too short in the betting following his unusual fall at Christmas.
Patrick Mullins spoke in glowing terms about BRANDY LOVE after her victory at Fairyhouse in December and has decided to remain in the saddle despite several other Closutton runners in the closing race of the Dublin Racing Festival. The daughter of Jet Away provided Mullins with another armchair winning ride and he later suggested this race for a horse he described as “very good and a proper mare.”
The one caveat though is the poor recent record for favourites, with no winning jolly since Vigil claimed success in 2014. Relegate (16/1) and Darling Daughter (25/1) were recent big-priced winners in 2018 and 2020 and Brooklynn Glory warrants respect at an each-way price. Barry O’Neill takes the ride for Willie Mullins and she takes her chance following a debut win at Listowel and an even more impressive victory at Cork afterwards.
Take Tea now runs in the colours of JP McManus having won easily for the Mullins team at Naas before Christmas with Derek O’Connor booked to ride. Hollymount is another daughter of Jet Away who managed a nice win on debut in a Carlisle bumper for Stuart Crawford in mid-December. The five-year-old is now trained by Gordon Elliott having been purchased by Noel and Valerie Moran for €300,000 at Goffs nearly two weeks ago.
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