* All prices are bang up to date with our snazzy widgets, while odds in copy are accurate at time of publishing but subject to change.
The Hunters Chase kicks things off on Friday and the conditions of this race mean that it can be only local farmers who are qualified to have runners. Peter Maher is one of the ‘banks’ racing regulars and he has booked Barry O’Neill for Alpha Male and that will do it for me. It’s worth noting that he placed in this contest before too.
Jessie Harrington is having a very good festival and Port Stanley can add to that. He was second at Cork recently and he has big race experience an can be competitive off his mark. He was placed in bumpers behind the likes of Envoi Allen and Abracadabras. School Boy Hours is the danger.
Claiming jockey Jordan Gainford really caught the eye when winning on The Shunter at the Cheltenham Festival. He has been booked for several horses who have needed some weight taking off and Scarlet And Dove is a perfect example. She has won graded races at Navan and Limerick and with 7lbs off, she has to be the one to beat now again.
Honeysuckle looked the real deal at Cheltenham in the Champion Hurdle and she put up an amazing performance. She has got better and better with each run this season and in receipt of the mares allowance of 7lb, she is a very worthy favourite.
However, this easy two miles on much quicker ground will test her. Sharjah has the ground conditions absolutely perfect for him and it could be his opportunity at a nice price to beat her – or at least finish second.
Gary Moore’s challenger Goshen will be much happier going right-handed around this track and I am pretty sure he is better on slow ground, when he can get the others racing much earlier than they’d like. However, I’m not convinced he will be able to do that in this contest.
Aspire Tower will force things along from the front and that will not help Goshen’s pursuit of the £100k incentive from Paddy Power for a British-trained runner to win this.
The 2019 Champion Hurdle heroine Epatante is another overseas raider who’ll try get a slice of that pie. She will be ridden by Aidan Coleman but Mark Walsh was declared in error to ride her. She got in a muddle at Cheltenham before finishing third to Honeysuckle and it will be interesting to see how she gets on now for trainer Nicky Henderson. She will handle the conditions.
Abacadabras took advantage of a messy 2m 4f Grade 1 hurdle at Aintree and he will love the drier ground and is not to be dismissed lightly.
For me though, Sharjah is a good each-way play and let’s hope all eight stay in.
Bob Olinger could be a monster and I find it very hard to oppose him.
Amateur jockey David Maxwell is a real enthusiast and we know he has had a few blips this season. However, he knows Bob And Co and learned from his mistakes when winning on him at Hexham. This is much harder though and recent Fairyhouse winner Solomn Grundy will love the conditions and gets the nod.
Patrick Mullins is the leading the race for the amateur title as it stands and rides M C Muldoon for his mother. It would be great for him to ride a winner for her and add to his tally as the title race goes down to the wire. He finished well behind Echoes In Rain at Fairyhouse recently and we all saw how impressive she was when winning her on Tuesday at this venue.
Stone Mad cost a small fortune as a unbroken three-year-old and is related to the likes of Tombstone and Tintangle. The market is always a good guide, but connections wouldn’t have run here unless they thought they’d a big chance.
*All prices are bang up to date with our snazzy widget, while in-copy odds are accurate at time of publication but subject to change
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