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We start the card with Grade 1 winner COLREEVY hoping to remain unbeaten over fences for the Willie Mullins team. The daughter of Flemensfirth won impressively on her chasing debut at Punchestown before seeing off Pencilfulloflead in the Faugheen Novice Chase at Limerick. Despite giving weight away to all rivals, the eight-year-old can continue to progress with plenty of options at the Cheltenham Festival, including the newly formed Paddy Power Mares’ Chase.
Mullins has an excellent record in this contest, having won four of the previous six renewals with Yukon Lil also taking part under Danny Mullins. The Magnier family-owned mare saw off both Scarlet And Dove and Mount Ida at Cork in November, before those two rivals claimed victories at Cork and Limerick afterwards to enhance the form. The Gordon Eillott trained mare had a similar profile to Colreevy over hurdles and could chase the favourite home and reverse the form with Yukon Lil.
The Grade 2 Horse & Jockey Hotel Chase sees Willie Mullins saddling four of the seven declared runners with Paul Townend riding race-favourite ALLAHO. The Cheveley Park-owned runner is joint top-rated alongside Battleoverdoyen on 160, but receives 7lbs from the Gigginstown runner, which should aide his return to winning ways.
Another key positive is the drop-in trip with the seven-year-old running keenly and having stamina concerns in previous races over fences at longer distances. The son of No Risk At All can reverse the form with the Gordon Elliott trained runner from the John Durkan at Punchestown in early December with Annamix and Easy Game battling for third-place prize-money. It looks an interesting match-bet between those stablemates with Easy Game dropping back and Annamix stepping up in trip after Christmas races at Leopardstown. A hard race in the Savills Chase and giving away 5lbs to a lightly race novice chaser might prove too much for the experienced Easy Game to handle with both likely to race handy.
Elimay is the final runner for the Closutton team and receives weight from all her stablemate on return, having finished second to Buildmeupbuttercup over hurdles at Punchestown in November. The mount of Mark Walsh returns to fences for the first-time since winning at this venue last year, while Balko Des Flos is another who returns having disappointed in the Savills Chase. Henry de Bromhead has decided to apply cheekpieces for the first-time and he should appreciate the drop back in trip under Rachael Blackmore.
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This competitive handicap Chase could come down to a battle of the four recent winners with Paddy paying an extra-place with 4 places on offer.
Key Commander was a surprise winner of the Molony Cup at this venue before Christmas and drops back in trip with a 12lb hike in the ratings for Eoin Doyle and Donagh Meyler. R’Evelyn Pleasure returns to fences for the first-time in just over a year having won over hurdles at Punchestown in early December for Sean O’Brien.
Jack Dillinger for Joseph O’Brien is another looking for back to back wins at this venue and steps-up in trip following success here last month. However, ENJOY D’ALLEN looks to have a solid chance of defying a rise in the ratings for Ciaran Murphy and Conor Orr following an impressive victory at Fairyhouse 11-days ago.
The eight-year-old runs in a handicap chase for the first-time with cheekpieces now applied having been placed in all previous races over fences before that novice success at Fairyhouse. He remains progressive and will have no concerns over heavy ground and should go extremely close to victory, while Kitten Rock looks an each-way option now dropping down in the ratings again for Edward O’Grady.
Mouse Morris has decided not to run Gentlemansgame, with only four-horses now declared for the W.T. O’Grady Memorial Novice Hurdle over 2m 7f. Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins have dominated this race in recent years and will saddle Torygraph and Fighter Allen who should battle for favouritism.
Torygraph really appreciated the step-up in trip to win at Fairyhouse last month and has previous bits of form behind The Big Getaway, Fire Attack and On Eagles Wings in bumpers. Fighter Allen is a half-brother to Envoi Allen and can be forgiving for a disappointing effort at Navan behind Ashdale Bob in Grade 2 company last month. However, HEATHER ROCCO could scupper the chances of both principal rivals and improve further to remain unbeaten for Henry de Bromhead.
The Umma House point-to-point winner raced keenly and green early on, before comfortably winning a maiden hurdle at Limerick over Christmas. He can improve again in what could turn out to be a tactical contest to win under Rachael Blackmore and remain unbeaten.
CALAGOGO has shown enough on two career starts to win the second division of this bumper for Gordon Elliott and Jamie Codd. The five-year-old finished third on debut at Fairyhouse before going even closer to victory when second at Limerick last November. The son of Doyen was beaten five lengths behind Vintage Prosseco, who will hopefully boost the from by going close to winning the maiden hurdle for Gavin Cromwell earlier on the card at 14:30.
The form of that Limerick bumper has been enhanced since with the fifth horse, Paddy The Wire winning at Catterick for Denis Hogan last month. Churchstonewarrior is the main danger for Jonathan Sweeney following a solid sixth-place finish in a good bumper at Punchestown last October, before coming third when returning to the same venue over hurdles the following month.
It would be a surprise if these two are not fighting out the finish in the lucky last with Ballywilliam Boy looking best of the rest to finish third for Michael Hourigan.
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