With the Cheltenham festival just two days away, many are touting Willie Mullins to reign supreme, and rightly so! He arguably has the strongest team of novices ever going into the festival. If any trainer had one of Vautour, Champagne Fever, Faugheen, Briar Hill, Felix Yonger, Djakadam and Ballycasey they’d be more than pleased, add in his stable stars Hurricane Fly, Quevega and Annie Power along with a formidable team of bumper runners then it’s easy to see why he’s 4/11 for top trainer! We’ve heard all about these horses, we know the pro’s and con’s of each, but what about the other Irish trained runners? Can Ireland land a blow outside of the Mullins yard? Below I take a look at 3 potential winners for Ireland.
Sizing Gold – JLT Novices Chase (Thursday) – 12/1
The JLT (formally the jewson) looks an open race this year. Felix Yonger heads the market and looks likely to get his desired good ground but he hasn’t convinced me in his preparation and at current prices he’s worth taking on. Wonderful Charm had his work interrupted with a set back and is opposable while Taquin De Seuil would prefer softer ground. Oscar Whisky and Vukovar are respected but in Sizing Gold, Henry De Bromhead holds more than a serious chance of another festival winner.
An above average bumper and novice hurdle performer, his future was always going to be over fences and he has not disappointed me thus far. 2nd in a Grade 2 to Pont Alexandre over hurdles last season, I was looking forward to seeing him make his debut over fences. That run came over 2m4f at Navan where he travelled kindly and jumped impeccably to score with authority. He went to Naas a month later to take on Foxrock over 3 miles on heavy ground. Once again he devoured his fences, jumping straight at every one before tiring quickly in the bad ground to finish 2nd. That was no bad result, the winner is the favourite for the 4 miler, while Sizing Gold will be a far better horse on decent ground. We haven’t seen him since and he goes to Cheltenham fresh. His jumping and ability to travel strongly will be a serious advantage in a race like this. He looks every inch a potential star and has clearly been over looked in the betting for this. His current price of 12/1 is very attractive and he should certainly give you a good run for your money.
Un Beau Matin – Martin Pipe Conditionals Hurdle (Friday) – 25/1
Gordon Elliott has a great record at the Cheltenham festival, his horses seem to come alive up that hill, and one of his handicappers that can go well at a massive price is the Gigginstown owned Un Beau Matin.
A well regarded recruit from France, he was a little slow to show his ability, 2nd to Jezki in a Grade 3 event before winning at Naas. He went to the festival last year on the back of those efforts and was sent to post a 16/1 chance for the Coral Cup off a mark of 142. He went well for a long way before tiring coming down the hill, and falling at the last. That run mightn’t inspire many but he’s better than that and once that experience of Cheltenham hasn’t left his mark he is certainly one to keep on the right side of this week. He has ran plenty of solid races in defeat this year, 2nd to the likes of Boston Bob and stable mate Mala Beach, while his latest effort behind Dunguib left one feeling there was more to come from him. He returns to Cheltenham off a 4 lbs lower mark, 138 and although he also holds an entry for the Coral Cup, this race looks an easier assignment. At 25/1 he looks a good each way play.
Thomas Edison – County Hurdle (Friday) – 25/1
Tony Martin is another man more than able to land a big handicap at Cheltenham. he won this very race last year with Ted Veale and he may well land back to back renewals with his inmate Thomas Edison.
This 7 y/o has the look of a very well handicapped horse to me. He won a decent bumper at Leopardstown in his younger days, beating the likes of Champagne Fever and Bright New Dawn. He only has one victory over hurdles to his name, in a maiden, but don’t let that put you off. He has had two spins over hurdles this season, first up a race he was unlucky not to win at Downroyal, badly hampered and didn’t get a clear run, before going to Cheltenham for the Greatwood in November. Well supported in the market and the chosen JP McManus horse of AP McCoy he was brought down at the 4th hurdle before the race got going. Plenty were expecting him to give a good account of himself that day and it’s very interesting that we haven’t seen him since, perhaps connections didn’t want to ruin his handicap mark? He runs off 138, and you’d have to believe he’s got a bit in hand! He only held one entry at the festival so this may have been the plan for some time and he’ll have no issues getting in. The 25/1 available now could be significantly shorter on Friday and he rates as one of the bets of the week.