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One of the most highly touted Irish horses of the week, Zanahiyr looks a formidable favourite in the final day opener with three wins over hurdles so far revealing his accurate jumping technique and versatility with regards differing pace scenarios. There is no doubt he sets the bar high but its one I think Tritonic will reach and surpass with yet more improvement expected on his third hurdle run.
The highest rated flat recruit ever to turn his hand to jumping for the two time winning trainer of this race Alan King, Tritonic took a huge step forward from his hurdles debut at Ascot to win the Adonis at Kempton last time in brilliant fashion. He has proved he stays well, jumps well and with further improvement likely he is the one to burst Zanahiyr’s bubble on Day 4.
In from trainer Dan Skelton has won three of the past five renewals of this race and can add to his tally here with Third Time Lucki. This three time hurdle winner made an error at the last in the Scottish Supreme Trial at Musselburgh last time to put paid to his chance of adding a fourth win to his record but the promise of better ground and a fast run race should bring out the best in him here.
He was fourth last year in the Champion Bumper less than two lengths off runner up and Tuesday’s runaway Supreme winner Appreciate It and despite the prospect of something lurking off a mark in the 130’s often favoured in this race Third Time Lucki could still have plenty in hand off 143 and can land this race for the Skeltons for a fourth time.
This race has a very open look to it this year and with no obvious stand outs dominating the division I suspect we might see another big priced winner in a race that has a habit of throwing them up. Paul Nicholls fields the progressive, well related Barbados Bucks but it is his other runner Threeunderthrufive that interests me.
Three from three since the start of his novice hurdle campaign, the Max McNeill owned contender has stepped up with every run with his win at Musselburgh over three miles last time suggesting an even stiffer test over a more testing track might bring out the best in him. He is undoubtedly a future chaser and has still looked green and immature at times but he clearly has the engine to compete at this level and he might be worth taking a chance on at a big price.
Two time winner of the race Al Boum Photo has proved his versatility in winning back to back Gold Cups in contrasting style and has to be hugely respected in his bid to land a third success. However another horse who has proven Festival form albeit at a lower level is 2019 handicap chase winner A Plus Tard who took his form to the next level up in trip this year when winning a very competitive renewal of the Savills Chase in eye catching fashion.
A slick, assured, jumping style coupled with that devastating blend of two mile speed alongside three mile stamina arm him with all the necessary attributes to step into the plate at the highest level. He could hand the Champion Hurdle winning duo of Rachael Blackmore and Henry de Bromhead another day to remember.
While usually a race dominated by point to point operations, Paul Nicholls has a very good record in this division with four previous winners making him the joint leading trainer in the race. Ditcheat contender Bob and Co returned from a years break to win impressively on his seasonal debut at Haydock last month and with reports suggesting he should come on again for the run and the added distance he looks to have every chance.
A three time winner for Nicholls since joining him from France he was well touted for this race 12 months ago following a three length defeat of stablemate Alcala at Fontwell and with another year on his back he could be worth siding with here to land an open renewal.
A new race run over the same course and distance as the Ryanair where its not a surprise to see Willie Mullins dominate the top of the market. With an excellent Festival record with mares in both the Dawn Run and the Close Brothers Mares Hurdle he has an impressive battalion to call on again here possibly headlined by the well touted Elimay for JP McManus.
Three from four runs over fences, Elimay got within three lengths of the Ryanair favourite Allaho at Thurles in January before lowering the colours of fellow rival Shattered Love in boggy ground at Naas. She jumps well, stays well and unlike her stablemate and market rival Colreevy does not carry a penalty and she’s got my vote to land the inaugural event.
The Irish have dominated this race in recent years with WIllie Mullins the leading trainer with three winners in the last decade. It often pays to side with unexposed first or second season performers and none look less exposed than expensive recruit Gentleman de Mee who made his debut for the Closcutton team after a 15 month break in February. While experience is obviously a concern he was spoken of as a Ballymore horse in the aftermath of his impressive from running win and with the trip expected to suit he could be absolutely thrown in off a mark of 139.
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