Day one was magic as always, now we have another million pounds on offer as we watch the second and final day of action on the Old Course.
The two-mile Champion Chase is the feature race worth £400,000, ably backed up by three more Grade 1 events including our opener, the Ballymore.
1.30 (Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 1) – HERMES ALLEN
We go over what might prove to be a fairly gruelling 2-mile, 5-furlong trip on soft ground for the race known to many as the Baring Bingham.
Willie Mullins has his usual strong hand here with, in reverse order of our preference, Ho My Lord, Champ Kiely, likely favourite Impaire Et Passe and Gaelic Warrior all engaged.
American Mike and Good Land shouldn’t trouble our selection, which is Hermes Allen for the Paul Nicholls yard.
On a four-timer now, the French-bred six-year-old gelding has been imperious over hurdles so far. A 27-length win at a canter on good ground was followed by a nine-length success in a Grade 2 here, again on top of the ground.
What was even more impressive however is the fact that he again cantered, unchallenged, to victory last time out on soft ground in the Grade 1 Challow Novices’ Hurdle and it seems he is destined for the very top.
2.10 (Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase – Grade 1) – THYME HILL
At £181,000 this is the second most valuable race on the day behind the feature event. The reason for that is that, as a three-mile race over fences, this contest features horses likely to go and challenge one day for the Gold Cup, perhaps even next season.
Mullins dominates the entries once again, though four of his five have their work cut out to get involved. His Sir Gerhard however, last year’s Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle winner, has a real chance if seeing out the three miles on only his second chase start.
He ranks higher than the short-priced favourite Gerri Colombe on our books, though they all may have their work cut out to get to Thyme Hill.
Philip Hobbs & Johnson White’s runner was the best staying novice hurdler in 2021, a close second in the Stayers’ Hurdle in 2022 and last time out won the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase in an absolute canter.
2.50 (Coral Handicap Hurdle – Class 1) – ICARE ALLEN
Though Run For Oscar, Good Risk At All, Camprond and HMS Seahorse have all been well backed it could be a horse at a very big price that goes close for us in the shape of Icare Allen.
Owned by JP McManus, trained by Willie Mullins and ridden by Mark Walsh, you’d think this horse would have been given more attention in the build-up to the festival but he appears to be going under the radar.
He does step up in trip here but on breeding there’s plenty to like about that move and, if he does indeed stay well, he is certainly handicapped to go very well undeed.
3.30 (Queen Mother Champion Chase – Grade 1) – EDWARDSTONE
The championship race on day two is the Champion Chase, the season’s two-mile chase feature.
It’s mad to think that twelve months ago Editeur Du Gite went off 17/2 for the Grand Annual and finished fourth, now he comes into this having beaten both Edwardstone and Energumene in the rescheduled Clarence House Chase.
Those two still rate higher in our books and both will be fully tuned up for this, with Edwardstone’s time surely here as last year’s Arkle winner and this season’s impressive Tingle Creek hero looks to confirm his place at the head of the two-mile table for trainer Alan King and jockey Tom Cannon.
Greaneteen and Nube Negra are both very capable on their day, but should not be getting involved at the business end of the race.
4.10 (Cross Country Chase – Class 2) – FRANCO DE PORT
Naturally, the cross-country course here is like no other and so we cannot accurately judge the form of ordinary chase races in order to evaluate this field.
What we do know is they still have to jump, they still have to stay and they still have to handle the ground which is soft.
Galvin has quality and is likely to stay involved for a long way, while his stablemate Delta Work won this last year and is looking to double up.
Franco De Port at 8 can actually still improve, while Snow Leopardess is not getting younger but is a thorough stayer and gets 7lbs from the boys.
All things considered, the 158-rated Franco De Port (Willie Mullins) could be ready now to dethrone Delta Work and is a good price to do so.
4.50 (Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase – Class 1) – DINOBLUE
The Grand Annual is a very competitive two-mile handicap hurdle, but the stats tell us that it’s generally hard to carry a lot of weight in it and we are on stamina-sapping ground.
So, while Andy Dufresne, Coeur Sublime and Final Orders are all classy and respected, it could be that the improving Dinoblue wins the day.
The six-year-old has his best days ahead and is well handicapped, while we also know he handles this ground which is a crucial factor.
5.30 (Champion Bumper – Grade 1) – WESTERN DIEGO
We finish with a frightfully competitive Champion Bumper in which all horses are improving and it’s up to us to work out at what rate. As well as taking our advice, look out for any serious money coming for runners in the closing race in the lead-up to off time.
After a long process, we whittled this down to three horses outside of the likely favourite A Dream To Share, the trio all trained by Willie Mullins.
It must be pointed out that one of ours, Fact To File, does indeed carry the first choice JP McManus colours rather than the favourite.
He needs to get back on track after being beaten last time, while It’s For Me was very good on debut and is second on the list behind Western Diego. The six-year-old selection is ridden by Rachael Blackmore and is fancied after a very impressive opening win in January.
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