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What a two days of racing this is. It is great race after great race, the only big star missing is Al Boum Photo. Willie Mullins has so many good horses and Gordon Elliott will be hoping some of his big guns can bag a few of the big ones after a disappointing Christmas festival at the track by his normal standards.
I am hoping the addition of cheekpieces work on FAKIERA. He stayed on well late on over 2m 4f at Navan behind Ashdale Bob and if this turns into a stamina test it will really suit him over the extra two furlongs. Emmet Mullins’ Cape Gentlemen is an interesting runner. If his uncle Willie trained him, he would be a lot shorter in the betting.
CHACUN POUR SOI is hard to oppose as he looks for back-to-back wins in this contest and will cement his place at the head of the Champion Chase betting with another victory now. Paddy Power trader Frank Hickey is a mighty judge and he was keen on Tornado Flyer at a big price each-way, to chase him home with six runners declared.
Chacun Pour Soi’s stablemate ENERGUMENE will be all the rage in the novices division of two-mile chasers. He put up a hell of a display when winning comfy at Naas. The only worry for me is he jumps a little right at his fences and it could turn into a burn-up when the pressure comes on.
I like to see good horses win and he could well be a star in the making and the one to put it up to Shishkin in the Arkle Chase at Cheltenham. Darver Star was placed in the Champion Hurdle last season and could be the each-way play if he brings his hurdle form to the chasing ranks now.
THE SHUNTER won the Greatwood Hurdle well at Cheltenham when last seen and was previously an impressive winner at Punchestown over the larger obstacles. He’s only 4lbs higher than his Greatwood Hurdle win and that will do for me as he reverts to fences.
SHARJAH was in great form when winning at Christmas and can follow up in the Irish Champion Hurdle where he will have to break Honeysuckle’s unbeaten nine hurdle race win. They got the tactics all wrong on Sharjah last year when he was well beaten by the mare, but being ridden cold suits him.
He can get the better of that great mare on Saturday.
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A really competitive 2m chase where 22 runners go to post and you could make a case for a lot of them. JP McManus throws six darts at the board but the one I think can thwart them all is GABYNAKO. Gavin Cromwell’s novice has some good form in the book including when third in a Grade One to Bob Ollinger at Naas last time. Paddy’s paying 6 places and the drop in class to his first run in a handicap can see him go close.
Willie Mullins saddles three runners in the bumper and the best of them may be one that was formerly trained by his brother, Tony, in KILCRUIT. He was beaten on his debut run but won well first time up for his new stable and Patrick Mullins has opted to ride him over his stablemates. We’ve got to trust Patrick on this one.
Mick Fitzgerald’s Bet Summary – Sunday, February 7
1.05 pm – Fakiera (Each-Way)
1.35pm – Chacun Pour Soi/Tornado Flyer (Each-Way)
2.10pm – Energumene/Darver Star (Each-Way)
2.45pm – The Shunter
3.15pm – Sharjah
3.50pm – Gabynako (Each-Way)
4.25pm – Kilcruit
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