Ballyward will go for the four-mile amateur race and Patrick Mullins rides. He won it last year on Rathvinden who is now a contender for the Aintree Grand National next month. He won well when I rode him in a Grade 3 Novice Chase at Naas on just his second start over fences towards the end of January. Mind you, Discorama did fall at the last when upsides.
Chris’s Dream and the third that day, Champagne Classic, have since franked the form by finishing first and second in a Grade 2 Chase at Navan.
He finished fourth to Kilbricken Storm in the Albert Bartlett last season and was within a couple of lengths of OK Corral, who he’ll face again in the four miler, and Santini who looks a leading player in the RSA Chase.
The Festival will be just his third start over fences, but he looks to be going in the right direction.
He should give Patrick a great spin.
Whatever way you look at it there isn’t a jockey around who wouldn’t like to have the ride on Altior. He’s an exceptional racehorse and goes for his 18th consecutive win over obstacles in Wednesday week’s Champion Chase.
He’s unbeaten now in 17 races over hurdles and fences and will equal my old pal Big Buck’s winning sequence of 18 races if he wins the Champion Chase.
It will be exciting to see him go up in distance next season as connections have indicated.
He missed his intended engagement at Christmas, but the other market leaders haven’t run since last December either, so that shouldn’t be any disadvantage.
He stayed on well to beat Mortal and Blow By Blow at Leopardstown in the Grade 1 Neville Hotels’ Novice Chase over three miles at Christmas and the stamina-sapping RSA Chase should play to his strengths.
He was also quick enough to beat Le Richebourg at Fairyhouse in the Drinmore Chase over 2m 4f and was a 150-rated hurdler last season. He’s got that bit of class and he’s shown he loves a battle when chinning Glenloe in the Pertemps Final at the Festival last year.
He’s run up three impressive bumper wins at Leopardstown, Navan & Fairyhouse and Gordon Elliott’s runner deserves his place at the top of the market.
He reminds me of Alexander Banquet, who I rode to win the Champion Bumper in 1998. I was still an amateur then and he would later give me my first Group One success as a professional by winning the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse the season after.
Envoi Allen looks in the same vein.
He stays really well and the horse he beat on his second-last start at Navan, Midnight Run, won at Naas last Sunday.
He should be a great ride in the Champion Bumper for Jamie Codd and the Gordon Elliott team.
Joseph O’Brien’s runner improved an awful lot from his Christmas run when just chinning Tiger Tap Tap in a maiden hurdle to beat him far more comprehensively when winning the Grade 1 Spring Juvenile Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival.
That’s been a good guide to the Irish horses’ chances in the Triumph Hurdle in the past – and it doesn’t look any different this year.
He was a high-class Flat horse who came from Aidan O’Brien’s yard and should be well suited to the Triumph Hurdle test.
He’s been penciled in as many people’s Irish banker at the Festival.
*Prices correct at time of publishing