Billed as “The Race that Stops a County” and the highlight of the winter calendar at Gowran Park, excitement is already building ahead of the Thyestes Chase, which takes place on January 24th this year. Run over three miles, this race is one of the most important National Hunt events in Ireland.
Boasting a rich history and tradition, this event has also provided the springboard for famous champions. Recent winners such as Hedgehunter and Numbersixvalverde went on to win the Grand National at Aintree, each in the year following their respective Thyestes victories. This emulated the famous success of iconic horses like Arkle in 1964 and Flyingbolt in 1966.
The first ever racecourse commentary in Ireland took place at Gowran Park back in 1952 and, while there will be plenty of TV and radio coverage of the Goffs Thyestes Handicap Chase, those betting online will most likely be following the broadest coverage of the event, weighing up the odds and probabilities as the action unfolds. Perhaps they'll even use the available flexi-betting options, if choosing more than one horse, hoping the ones they’ve backed will be to the fore when the field for the 2019 race jump the last fence.
Racing fans will certainly be paying very careful attention to the meeting as Gold Cup favourite Presenting Percy is also due to run in another race on the card.
Among the original entries for this year's Thyestes Chase is last year's winner Monbeg Notorious, which provided a historic first Thyestes Chase victory for trainer Gordon Elliott at the event in 2018. However, he is not being considered among the favourites this time around. A second consecutive victory may be a tall order, with Preists Leap, trained by Thomas O'Leary, the last horse to achieve the feat in 2008 and 2009.
However, Elliott has no shortage of other horses to produce back-to-back wins. The Co Meath-based National Hunt trainer also has nine other horses running at Gowran Park this year, including Mala Beach, General Principle and Alpha Des Obeaux. Considered to be a dark horse for the 2019 Grand National at Aintree in April, according to Elliott himself - and as highlighted by The Guardian in December last year -
Borice will be one to watch and is already attracting the interest of punters, keen to see how well he places in the Thyestes Chase.
Not since Djakadam romped to first in 2016 or On His Own won twice in 2012 and 2014 has legendary Irish trainer Willie Mullins enjoyed victory in the Thyestes Chase.
Nevertheless, with a large entry this year, there’s every chance one could be a winner this year. Not least because one of the early favourites is Invitation Only, regarded by many punters as being among the strongest of the potential winners, if the fluctuating odds are any guide.
Given genuine contenders (Total Recall, Any Second Now and Blazer) are also trained by Willie Mullins and with some interesting outside options (Minella Beau and Up For Review) also in the field, this race could well turn out to be a fine showcase of his training expertise.
After all, Gowran Park’s main event of the year has already brought six wins for W.P. Mullins since 2000, which is more individual winners than any other trainer in the Thyestes Chase.
Whichever horse is first past the post at the end of this exciting race - jockey dismounting jubilantly in the paddock, owners and trainers celebrating in the grandstand - it’s certain to be another enjoyable event at Gowran Park this year.