DISAPPOINTING as it is not to have seen the imperious Allaho grace the track so far this season, his absence has breathed competitive life into the intermediate distance chase division, with Sunday’s Grade 2 Horse & Jockey Hotel Novice Chase (1.40) at Thurles a prime example.
The lingering fitness doubts concerning the Cheveley Park-owned chaser has trainers pondering a Ryanair Chase tilt, which includes Willie Mullins himself, given he runs both Chacun Pour Soi, Royal Rendezvous and Haut En Colours here.
The former-mentioned, a six-time Grade 1 winner, is 11 now and raised the possibility of a regression in his ability when only third to stablemate Blue Lord at Leopardstown over Christmas. However, he is lightly-raced for his age, and with jumping frailties creeping into his game, he should have a little more time at his fences over this longer trip.
“Willie has been weighing up letting him have a go at this trip and we’ve decided to give him the opportunity,” Patrick Mullins told The Irish Field. “He is in great form after Leopardstown where he just made a bad mistake at a crucial time, otherwise you’d like to think he would have finished a lot closer to Blue Lord.
“Normally he comes on a lot for his first run so we’re hopeful he can do that again here.”
Yesterday evening he was vying for favouritism with the consistent Fakir D’oudairies, whose connections must be eyeing up the Ryanair now.
Joseph O’Brien’s eight-year-old has lost all four of his meetings against Allaho and connections opted to avoid the Mullins horse in the spring last season by taking in the Ascot Chase and Marsh Chase (Melling) at Aintree.
However, he does have a fine record at Cheltenham, having finished fourth in a Supreme, second in an Arkle and second in a Ryanair (to Allaho).
French Dynamite is also a fascinating contender tomorrow and possibly for the Ryanair as well. His second to Ga Law in the Paddy Power Gold Cup has been upgraded by the the third and fourth Midnight River and Il Ridoto’s subsequent exploits, and Mouse Morris’s horse also ran a big race in the Savills Chase, perhaps failing to see out the three-mile trip.
Back down to two and a half miles and with just seven runs over fences, he retains the potential to become a Grade 1 performer.
Earlier Allegorie De Vassy has a fine opportunity to make it two from two over fences in the Grade 2 Coolmore N.H. Sires Mogul Irish EBF Mares Novice Chase (1.10).
Despite an excellent performance from Impervious at Punchestown last Sunday, Willie Mullins’ mare remains favourite for the Mares’ Chase at Cheltenham with most bookmakers.
“She is as big and as strong a mare we’ve ever had,” Patrick Mullins said. “You couldn’t but be impressed with the way she did it at Limerick. She has been in good form and progressed since. This looks another good opportunity for her and you’d be disappointed if she couldn’t convert it.”
IRISH Grand National-winning trainer James Motherway could be set to record one of his most lucrative successes in years when his impressive listed winner Rebel Ivy takes aim at Saturday’s Grade B feature Navan Handicap Hurdle (1.07).
Motherway’s ambitious tilt at the Listed Irish Stallion Farms EBF Cailin Alainn Mares’ Hurdle with his 117-rated performer proved an inspired move as the eight-year-old daughter of Fame And Glory bolted up by 10 lengths from Cheltenham Festival winner Heaven Help Us and last season’s Mares’ Hurdle second Queens Brook.
A muscle-related setback meant Rebel Ivy missed out on the festive period, but the Cloyne, Co Cork-based trainer is hoping she can make up for lost time in this weekend’s €40,000 prize despite a 12lb hike from the handicapper.
Motherway told The Irish Field “There weren’t many options as to where we could go so we’re happy to have a crack at a good pot like this. I have one eye on the Grade 3 Quevega Mares Hurdle in February after this.
“She’s in good form, the trip should suit and I don’t think she’ll be inconvenienced by the ground. We’re hopeful she’ll give a good account.”
An inspection has been called for the Meath venue’s chase course at 7.30am on Saturday after it was found to be unfit for racing on Friday afternoon. The hurdle course is said to be raceable.
Unusually, the bumper is not the concluding race on the card and will instead be run as the third last contest before the two chases.
Navan general manager Aidan McGarry said: “We’ve moved the bumper to give the chase track as much time as possible to thaw, should we have any concerns with frost. Bringing it forward avoids the chance of people having to wait an hour for the bumper if the chases are in any difficulty.”