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After rewatching their Naas race last night, I wasn’t so sure that Hollow Games would reverse the form on Grand Jury. Grand Jury should appreciate the extra 2f in this 2m 6f contest rather than the 2m 4f of the Nass race. When you look at the form of the trainers, there isn’t too much between Henry de Bromhead and Gordon Elliott. I’ll side with Gordon and Hollow Games but it’s a bit of a tentative pick.
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I wouldn’t be worried about Vauban wearing a tongue tie for the first time. Paul Townend felt it was required and that’s why the decision was made. He’s been working hard at home and he’s better since his run at Punchestown. Vauban is a great horse but I’m a massive fan of Fil Dor. I’ve been watching him since he won at Down Royal on his first start for Gordon, where he beat Sea Sessions, and that form looks solid. I don’t think the Fairyhouse race was run to suit him and he still beat Lunar Power. He sets the standard and he’s the most likely winner. However, Icare Allen is the value. He was very impressive here over Christmas. Can I see him beating Fil Dor? I’m not so sure. However, if Fil Dor makes a mistake, Icare Allen will pounce.
You could ask four people and get four different picks in this race. I’m going for the outsider of the big four in Saint Sam. His run in the Fred Winter last year was brilliant. He came back to Punchestown and was a little bit disappointing but he beat Thedevilscoachman convincingly at Fairyhouse last month. Saint Sam looks to be the forgotten one and he could be the strongest stayer.
I’m siding with Enjoy Dallen. I picked him each-way in the Paddy Power Chase at Christmas and he ran a cracking race to finish third. He has some strong chase form and he’s definitely improved.
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The two key jockeys in this race are Bryony Frost on Frodon and Paul Townend on Kemboy. Bryony got it wrong in the King George VI Chase in December, but I can’t see her doing it twice. You also rarely see Paul going too hard up front and leaving little in the tank. Both will be trying to conserve some energy to make sure they get home well in this stiff 3m contest. I don’t see them cutting each other up early on. They’ll both be at the front end and it’s D-Day for both of them. Kemboy will always have a place in my heart, but Frodon is a better jumper. That could be the difference.
Willie Mullins skipped Gowran Park last week with Mt Leinster to bring him to Leopardstown. His jumping was erratic at Navan when he was beaten by Kapard. He jumped much better here over Christmas behind Haut En Couleurs. Does there look to be something really unexposed here? I’m not sure. It doesn’t look the strongest race and Mt Leinster can win if he’s improved.
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This is a decent bumper. It’s interesting that Barry O’Neill has opted for Sandor Clegane. Willie also has a couple in there in Facile Vega and Embassy Gardens. Embassy Gardens struggled at Christmas but got the job done here and he has improved. I know Gordon’s team like Itswhatunitesus but I feel Facile Vega has improved a lot since his win here on St Stephen’s Day. That should be good enough to win this one.
Ruby Walsh’s best bets:
*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
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