1.10 Coolmore N.H. Sires Mogul Irish EBF Mares Novice Chase (Grade 2) 2m 4f 78yds
ANYTHING less than a comprehensive victory for Cheltenham Festival favourite Allegorie De Vassy would be considered a disappointment here, as she aims to build on the excellent impression created when bolting up in the Grade 2 Dawn Run Mares Novice Chase at Limerick over Christmas. That dominant 19-length success came on the Willie Mullins-trained six-year-old’s first start over fences, looking such a natural that she is now priced between 6/4 and 15/8 for the Grade 2 Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase.
With just six runners in the line-up, including Limerick runner-up Malina Girl, this should prove plain sailing for Susannah Ricci’s top-class prospect. Gavin Cromwell could wind up the other beneficiary of this small-field affair, with his representatives Brides Hill and the aforementioned Malina Girl in line to earn further blacktype in the placings.
SELECTION: ALLEGORIE DE VASSY
Next best: Brides Hill
1.40 Horse & Jockey Hotel Chase (Grade 2) 2m 4f 78yds
A high-class renewal of this Grade 2 registered as the Kinloch Brae in which Chacun Pour Soi is tipped to defy a Grade 1 penalty, as he bids to provide Willie Mullins with a fourth consecutive win in the race. There is plenty of quality in this six-runner affair, bolstered by the presence of four-time Grade 1 scorer Fakir D’Oudairies (rated 163), Galway Plate and multiple graded winner Royal Rendezvous (163), twice Grade 1-placed performers Lifetime Ambition (155) and Haut En Couleurs (149), as well as Paddy Power Gold Cup second French Dynamite (152).
However, Chacun Pour Soi has posted a handful of performances in his career that main rival Fakir D’Oudairies likely would not be capable of matching, and he has looked the more talented chaser when operating at his very best. He may have been beaten 14 lengths in third behind Blue Lord when turned over as 6/4 favourite on his comeback at the Leopardstown Christmas Festival, but Chacun Pour Soi’s record on his second start of the season is top drawer.
Since joining Mullins, form figures for the 11-year-old’s first start of the season read 12153, compared to 1111 for his second appearance of the campaign. Stepping up to an extended two and a half miles for the first time shouldn’t be a negative either.
SELECTION: CHACUN POUR SOI
Next best: Fakir D’Oudairies
2.10 www.thurlesraces.ie Handicap Chase 2m 5f 162yds
Sean Flanagan returns to action this weekend after being sidelined since a heavy fall at Thurles on October 20th that saw him fracture three vertebrae and two ribs. It could be a welcome comeback to the Tipperary venue as his only ride on the card Cusp Of Carabelli makes appeal at a likely each-way price in this handicap chase.
Flanagan has been aboard for four of the David O’Brien-trained perfomer’s five wins, while this track also suits Cusp Of Carabelli well. Prior to disappointing on his last start here, he had registered two wins and a third from just three Thurles appearances, and he is now rated 10lb lower than his last mark.
Galon De Vauzelle must have a big chance at the foot of the weights for trainer Philip Rothwell too after finishing third to ready winner Seddon on his last start at the Leopardstown Christmas Festival.
SELECTION: CUSP OF CARABELLI
Next best: Galon De Vauzelle
2.40 Connolly’s Red Mills Irish EBF Auction Maiden Hurdle 1m 7f 112yds
Having finished runner-up to Liberty Dance in listed company at this venue on her last start, Belle The Lioness ought to take plenty of beating as she drops in class to tackle a winnable-looking auction maiden hurdle. The Henry de Bromhead-trained mare, who won a Cork point-to-point bumper last April before finishing runner-up in a Punchestown maiden hurdle in November, should be able to capitalise on a good opportunity at the expense of recent Down Royal runner-up Mollys Glory.
SELECTION: BELLE THE LIONESS
Next best: Mollys Glory
3.10 W.T. O’Grady Memorial Irish EBF Novice Hurdle 2m 7f
Gordon Elliott has won five of the last seven runnings of this contest and supplies a pair of live contenders again this time in recent maiden hurdle winners Santonito, the mount of Davy Russell, and Cardamon Hill, set to be ridden by Jordan Gainford. However, the Cullentra duo could have their work cut out to give 5lb and a beating to formerly classy bumper performer Embassy Gardens, trained by Willie Mullins.
Sean and Bernardine Mulryan’s promising seven-year-old has been turned over on his first two starts since sent hurdling, but stepping up to this trip for the first time should bring about improvement. It was in a Leopardstown Christmas Festival bumper over two and a half miles last season that he edged out Sunday’s rival Santonito, and he should have a class edge over that rival again if sharpening up his jumping from last time when making a couple of significant mistakes.
SELECTION: EMBASSY GARDENS
Next best: Santonito
3.40 Horse & Jockey Handicap Hurdle 1m 7f 112yds
An open affair in which preference is for the Tom Mullins-trained Hey Johnny, who receives weight from all rivals and should be much more comfortable in this grade after collecting prize money when readily outclassed last weekend at Punchestown behind Impaire Et Passe.
He isn’t in the same league as his dual Cheltenham Festival-winning half-brother Sir Gerhard but should be effective at this track and trip, while an ease in the ground won’t inconvenience him either. Bigz Belief’s last win came around this time last year at Naas and he may not be far away here in what looks a race that should suit him well.
SELECTION: HEY JOHNNY
Next best: Bigz Belief
4.10 Thurles Racecourse Hunters Chase 3m 149yds
Last season’s Cheltenham and Punchestown Festival hero Billaway sets the standard in this six-runner contest but don’t be surprised if he is upset on his return from a 268-day layoff. Now an 11-year-old, he has been beaten on each of his five seasonal debuts - including in this race last year.
David Christie lowered Billaway’s colours with the admirable Winged Leader 12 months ago and could do the same this time around with Ferns Lock. An unexposed six-year-old who impressed when making a winning rules debut at Fairyhouse in November, he might prove the one to beat if his lack of experience doesn’t catch him out.
SELECTION: FERNS LOCK
Next best: Billaway