Kiely can ensure championship affair

Wednesday 1.30pm

Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle

(Grade 1) 2m5f

Champ Kiely looked on course to be Closutton’s number one for the Ballymore Novice Hurdle after his victory in the Lawlor’s Of Naas Hurdle. However, Il Etait Temps matched him on the clock at Leopardstown to add his name to the roll call, along with Impaire Et Passe and Gaelic Warrior.

Champ Kiely set a strong pace at Naas, illustrated by a comparison with the potentially smart Hunters Yarn as the difference between the two winners was 4.2secs or 21 lengths at the halfway stage, before extending to 7.4secs at the final hurdle jumped by the Grade 1 winner.

Admittedly, the closing stages were reversed in terms of time even though the Willie Mullins-trained gelding responding to every call from his jockey in the closing stages. The extremely strong pace of the Future Champions Novice Hurdle suited Il Etait Temps so any repeat of the Naas tactics by Champ Kiely may play into the hands of his stable companion.

Assessing the performance of Hermes Allen at Newbury is difficult as the monsoon conditions adversely affected the ground. A comparison with Blenkinsop, who won a handicap on the same day over the same distance, shows the Grade 1 winner to be 5secs or 25 lengths quicker overall, despite the final circuit being the opposite as the handicap winner covered the ground 5.7secs faster.

As the data suggests Paul Nicholls’ gelding should not be troubled by the potentially strong gallop and his previous impressive victory at Cheltenham is another positive for a six-year-old who attempts to break the Challow Hurdle hoodoo at the Festival.

Good Land was an impressive winner of the Grade 1 Nathaniel Lacy at Leopardstown, giving the impression he will improve further for a championship pace.

Inthepocket would still remain on the shortlist as he was inconvenienced by the fading Facile Vega when beaten by Il Etait Temps.

Henry de Bromhead’s gelding stepped up on his maiden hurdle win at Wexford, landing a Grade 2 at Naas, on a card which also saw Impaire Et Passe make a successful hurdling debut for Willie Mullins.

The J.P. McManus-owned six-year-old was the quicker overall when adjusted for distance, which he supported with the quicker final circuit. However, the Simon Munir and Isaac Souede-owned gelding finished off his race 0.3secs quicker when eventually asked to change gear by Paul Townend.

A Real contender

Wednesday 2.10pm

Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase

(Grade 1) 3m 80y

Gerri Colombe has yet to be tested over three miles as a chaser, although equally he has also so far not tasted defeat at shorter distances, giving the impression staying trips will bring about further improvement.

At Sandown in February, Gordon Elliott’s gelding produced his best time to date on the clock as he also clocked a faster circuit time than winning two-mile chaser Third Time Lucki into the bargain.

The Real Whacker gave an exhibition round of jumping to win the Grade 2 Dipper Novices’ Chase.

Paddy Neville’s gelding clocked an overall race time 4.3secs quicker than Midnight River over the same distance, which in isolation would be significant.

However, with the final circuit advantage stretching to 6.2secs the conclusion drawn is the seven-year-old is worth his place in this Grade 1 contest. Any suspicion he was slowing at the finish is also ruled out as his closing sectional from the fourth last fence was also 2.2secs quicker.

Thunder Rock brings the form of the two races together and he was beaten slightly further by Gerri Colombe despite the time figure being slightly slower.

There was less substance to Thyme Hill’s Kauto Star Chase victory as the overall race time was 7.8secs slower than the King George. Last season Stayers’ Hurdle second was also slow through his closing sectional, despite the luxury of the slower gallop.

Gaillard Du Mesnil could bizarrely look to make it second time lucky in the premier race for staying novice chasers at the Festival. Although after a lacklustre finishing effort at Leopardstown on his most recent outing may well defer to Sir Gerhard as the stable’s number one for the race.

A belated chase debut offered no clue to the level last season’s Ballymore Hurdle winner could reach over fences as the early gallop was pedestrian to say the least, coming here after just one chase start is also a negative.

Champion Chase thrown wide open

Wednesday 3.30pm

Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase

(Grade 1) 1m 7f 199y

Prior to his defeat at Cheltenham in the rearranged Clarence House Chase Energumene looked the most solid of the odds-on favourites as his dominance over his rivals on the clock is considerable.

However, after only finishing third to Editeur Du Gite, who fought back bravely to head Edwardstone it leaves both the defending champion and last year’s leading novice with all to prove.

It appears being a leading contender for this season’s Champion Chase is a poisoned chalice as Blue Lord also met with defeat at Leopardstown, as he found Gentleman De Mee not for catching.

If Gentleman De Mee joins Editeur De Gite in the field it will make for a strong pace as they are both best when dominating.

According to the clock Gary Moore’s gelding was the quicker of the two when winning their most recent start. However, if Genteman De Mee returned to the form which saw him successful at Aintree last season he will present the most danger to Energumene and Edwardstone.

Having looked a very one-sided contest prior to the most recent events, this is now one of the most intriguing races of the four days and could go any one of four ways.


Wednesday 5.30pm

Weatherbys Champion Bumper

(Grade 1) 2m 87y

It’s For Me put down his marker for this race with an impressive debut which saw him catapulted into favouritism.

The Simon Munir and Isaac Souede-owned gelding won with any amount in hand at Navan, although he will need to improve significantly on the clock to justify his place in the market come March.

The slow early pace prevented a strong time figure so the best indication of his ability is his closing sectional, which from the fourth last hurdle was 0.1secs slower than Gavin Cromwell’s novice Path D’oroux.

The strongest bumper time figure either side of the Irish Sea remains the victory of Fascile Mode at Leopardstown over Christmas. However, it failed to stand the test in the Grade 2 event at the Dublin Racing Festival, as Fascile Mode, and to an even greater extent Special Cadeau, ran way below expectations.

Fact To File, on the other hand, improved significantly on his Leopardstown debut, just not sufficiently enough to contain A Dream To Share.

The other bumper of note to date saw Slade Steel run out a cosy winner from Captain Cody. Henry de Bromhead’s four-year-old readily accounted for the more prominently ridden runner-up and can rate higher.

This article is taken from The Irish Field Cheltenham Magazine 2023. CLICK HERE TO ORDER YOUR COPY