Ashroe Diamond

(4.50 Jack de Bromhead Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle, Thursday - 7/2)

Luccia is all the rage for the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle, but impressive as she has been, her form doesn’t come close to what Ashroe Diamond has in the book this season. Willie Mullins’s mare was thrown right into the deep end in a savagely run Royal Bond on just her second start over hurdles, finishing third to Supreme Novice Hurdle second faovurite Marine Nationale, and splitting the Lawlor’s one-two Champ Kiely and Irish Point. The front four finished all of 85 lengths clear of Path D’oroux. She was third again then in the Grade 1 Future Champions at Leopardstown, where she was ridden over patiently behind the stable’s better fancied duo of Facile Vega and Il Etait Temps. Again, she had Path D’oroux well held in behind her, and Gavin Cromwell’s horse has since gone on to win and now looks a live contender in the County Hurdle off a mark of 141. Ashroe Diamond could be at least that good, and if she is, she’ll be difficult to beat. To complete her prep, she overcame a slowly-run, tactically run Solerina Mares’ Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse, a race that often paves the way for a classy mare to progress. Luccia bolted up in a listed event last time but the horses she beat were rated 125, 132 and 118, nowhere near the calibre of what Ashroe Diamond has faced. Since the induction of mares’ races to the Festival, Willie Mullins has won 16 of the 24 contests, including five of the seven renewals of this race. He can make it six in eight with this mare.

Gentleman De Mee

(3.30 Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase, Wednesday - 8/1)

There is a solid case for suggesting Gentleman De Mee has the best piece of form in the Champion Chase, his four-and-a-half-length defeat of Edwardstone in the Maghull Novices at Aintree last April. You could crab that reading by saying it’s Aintree form and Edwardstone was coming off a long season but interestingly the runner-up trainer Alan King, wasn’t fully committed to that excuse after the race, and the fact the front two came 11 lengths clear of the 153-rated Third Time Lucki suggests they’ve both ran to a very high standard.

Of course this form has only become relevant again since Gentleman De Mee bounced back to his best in the Dublin Chase. He was electric there, like he was at Aintree, enjoying himself from fence to fence, before maintaining a seven-length distance back to Blue Lord, who had been so impressive on his previous run, but also reaffirming the novice chase form from last season. Prior to that effort Gentleman De Mee had been disappointing on all three starts, but it was somewhat similar last season. He really came into his own on spring ground. That might just be him. In a Champion Chase, that looks more open than the odds suggest, he looks the one to be on.

Corach Rambler

(2.50 Ultima Handicap Chase, Tuesday - 15/2)

Corach Rambler was a taking winner of the Ultima last season and can make it back to back wins in the race off just a 6lb higher mark. Lucinda Russell’s gelding was given a fine ride by Derek Fox to come through late on, but he hit the line hard and looked value for more than a winning margin of two and three quarter lengths. He has only been seen twice since, prepping for the Ladbrokes Trophy when fifth in the Colin Parker at Carlisle, before running a real eyecatcher at Newbury, looking more likely to be pulled up than to contend for the race at the cross fence, before coming through to finish fourth to Le Milos, beaten less than 10 lengths. With just eight starts over fences rising hope of more improvement to come, connections basically declared his mark of 146 too good not to keep for a return to Cheltenham and then Grand National (no penalty for Aintree if he wins here) and it seems like the plan has come together. The strong pace that usually prevails here will suit him down to the ground and he can make it three wins from three runs at the track.


(2.10 Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle, Thursday - 25/1)

You might recall Coltor for winning the big amateurs’ handicap on the flat at Galway under Finny Maguire, but he is now with Roger Fell in North Yorkshire since acquired by Nick Bradley, and he is a most interesting runner in the Pertemps. Bought at auction last October, Coltor has since run well on the flat at Kempton, which teed him up for a big effort in a qualifier for this race at Musselburgh, when he stayed on strongly to finish second to Brandy McQueen. He was easy to back all the way out to 40/1 that day so completely belied market expectations, and perhaps connections’ own expectations.

With that performance came a 4lb rise, but he is a lightly raced horse over hurdles having just his third run for his new trainer, and a more pressing stamina test that will come at Cheltenham will play more to his strengths. He has already demonstrated his ability to handle the track since finishing a close sixth to Jeff Kidder in the Boodles two seasons ago.

Elixir De Nutz

(4.50 Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase, Wednesday - 20/1)

Elixir De Nutz has had a fine season for Joe Tizzard and looks primed to run a big race in the Grand Annual if things fall his way. He ran in this contest last year but the extremely testing conditions did for him and he probably left his season there that day, given he pulled up at Aintree next time. He has been revitalised this season however, most recently winning impressively at Wincanton and then finishing second to Funambule Sivola in the Game Spirit. The winner is rated 155, and was 4lbs well in on the weights with the Tizzard runner, while the 170-rated Greaneteen was back in third. It’s likely Paul Nicholls’s Grade 1 scorer wasn’t at his best but it’s fair to say it was a career best from Elixir De Nutz. He only got 2lbs for that so if he can run to the same standard again, he’ll be bang there, around a track he has won twice at as a novice.