L’Homme Presse could be pretty special

Thursday 1.30pm

Turners Novice Chase

(Grade 1) 2m 3f 168y

Variously known as the Golden Miller, the Jewson, the JLT and the Marsh, the two-and-a-half miler on Thursday is historically the weakest of the three non-handicap novice chases at the Cheltenham Festival, but not by much, and not at all in 2015, when Vautour stormed to a 15-length win and a 170 rating.

Some of those prominent in the ante-post betting have alternatives at shorter (the Arkle) or longer (the Festival), and perhaps prevailing ground conditions – it has been described as good or firmer six times and softer than good five times for this race by Timeform – will determine which horse goes where.

BRAVEMANSGAME deserves respect wherever he turns up, though he came up short in the Grade 1 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at this trip 12 months ago and has mostly run at a bit further since. He and GALOPIN DES CHAMPS are discussed in the Festival Novices’ Chase section.

That Ballymore went to BOB OLINGER, of course, and the Henry de Bromhead-trained gelding attained a rating of 159 over hurdles without being hard pressed. His two starts and wins over fences have been adequate, no more, comprising a beginners at Gowran Park and a Grade 3 at Punchestown in which he briefly had to battle to account for 148-rated CAPODANNO.

There could be something pretty special among the home guard in the form of L’HOMME PRESSE, who has won all four of his starts over fences, running 153-rated PIC D’ORHY into submission at Sandown in the Grade 1 Scilly Isles Novice Chase at Sandown in February. L’Homme Presse is an accurate and fast jumper, an uncomplicated but greatly talented individual who should not be underestimated.

JUNGLE BOOGIE and STATTLER can both boast 150 ratings.

Trip could suit Saint

Thursday 2.50pm

Ryanair Chase

(Grade 1) (2m 4f 127y)

It could be argued that ALLAHO’s win in last year’s Grade 1 Ryanair Chase was the performance of the entire 2020/2021 season, as he came home 12 lengths and more clear of FAKIR D’OUDAIRIES (rating of 168 overall but 161 on that day), TORNADO FLYER (161 on the day) and others. It was an awesome display of full-on front-running which several good horses simply could not live with.

The runner-up won easily at Aintree next time, and Tornado Flyer is now a Grade 1 King George VI Chase winner, of course. But Allaho himself was beaten the following month by an on-song Chacun Pour Soi at an insufficient two miles at Punchestown and made heavy weather of putting away JANIDIL by two lengths in the Grade 1 John Durkan Memorial Chase there in December (164-rated MELON third, Fakir D’Oudairies and Tornado Flyer fourth and fifth).

This year’s Ryanair Chase promises to be stronger still, though it depends on which horses turn up (it is assumed that Energumene will go for the Champion Chase). ASTERION FORLONGE might well have won the John Durkan but for unseating, then was second to Tornado Flyer in the King George VI Chase at Kempton when falling at the last, before running poorly in the Irish Gold Cup. He is also in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

SHAN BLUE would have won the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby by a wide margin, if from rather limited opposition, but for falling three out and should be as good at this shorter distance.

It may downright suit SAINT CALVADOS (166), who split Min and A Plus Tard in the 2020 Ryanair Chase and who failed to get home when third to Tornado Flyer in what was an attritional King George.

MISTER FISHER and FIRST FLOW are both rated 162.

‘Reliable’ Royal Kahala could find more

Thursday 3.30pm

Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle

(Grade 1) 2m 7f 213y

The staying hurdle division is going through a lull at present, recent winners of this race comparing unfavourably with the likes of the 2009 to 2012 winner Big Buck’s (173 at his best) and Baracouda (174 when winning for the second time, in 2003). Perhaps things are about to change.

The Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown is a key piece of form, KLASSICAL DREAM beating last year’s Stayers’ winner FLOORING PORTER by two lengths, though helped somewhat by grabbing a clear lead at the start. The overall time was good, and the first two drew more than 20 lengths clear of rivals who had closed the gap significantly by the end of the back straight.

Hang left

However, Klassical Dream then ran poorly in the Galmoy Hurdle at Gowran Park and seems not to take much racing. Flooring Porter does, but he also shows a tendency to hang left even before pressure is applied.

The form of the Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot is a rung below but nonetheless meaningful in this context. CHAMP reverted from chases to beat THYME HILL convincingly by a length and three quarters, with PAISLEY PARK in third.

A repeat for Champ when odds-on for the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham failed to materialise, as he found little and was passed late on by a rejuvenated Paisley Park (who lost a lot of ground at the start and seems to be becoming quirkier with age).

Last year’s Stayers’ Hurdle second, SIRE DU BERLAIS (160) ran abysmally in the latest Christmas Hurdle, but a whole lot better when fourth to 156-rated SPORTING JOHN in a Pertemps Qualifier at Warwick.

ROYAL KAHALA (155, including sex allowance) took advantage in that Galmoy Hurdle in which Klassical Dream flopped and is likeable and (a rare quality in this division) reliable, if with more to find.

Is it Party TIME?

Thursday 4.50pm

Parnell Properties Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle

(Grade 2) 2m 1f

It usually takes a very useful effort to win the Mares’ Novice Hurdle, first run in 2016, and none of the main contenders has managed that to date: this is a race at least as much about potential as achievement beforehand.

STATUAIRE’s win from My Mate Mozzie and Mighty Potter in the Grade 1 Royal Bond Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse in November looks good on paper, though it was a falsely run affair, resulting in a sprint and bunched finish. She ran badly at the Dublin Racing Festival.

Slow pace

ELLE EST BELLE, good enough in bumpers to finish third to Sir Gerhard and Kilcruit at the last Cheltenham Festival, ran to a similar level in winning a listed hurdle at Newbury as when fourth to Jonbon at Ascot, seeming unsuited by a slow pace in the latter.

PARTY CENTRAL was impressive when winning a mares’ handicap hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival, though this would be a further step-up in class.

ALLEGORIE DE VASSY looked decent when winning the Solerina at Fairyhouse (131-rated BRANDY LOVE second, LUNAR DISPLAY third), and her stablemate DINOBLUE (134) impressed when winning at Clonmel on her only appearance.