I’ve looked at the opener for plenty long enough and I’ve landed on Bob Olinger . I just can’t crab anything he’s done to date. His Grade 1 win at Naas last time was very impressive and this smaller field would suit him more than a Ballymore. He’s always had a good reputation and he’s living up to that now.
Most readers of my Betway column will know just how much I love Monkfish . He’s such a special horse and he is so beautiful to look at. As well as dashing good looks, he’s got the talent to boot, too. He’s unbeaten this season, jumps like a stag and seems to do everything with ease. If he stays on his feet, he – alongside Envoi Allen – is the banker of the week.
I like the way that the mare Heaven Help Us won at the Dublin Racing Festival. I was there on the day and was very taken with her.
When I look back through her form, she won at Cheltenham a couple of seasons ago and even ran okay in the Supreme last season. She’s got no weight on her back and could run very well at a big price.
Although I wasn’t impressed with him at Christmas, I fell in love with Chaucun Pour Soi at Leopardstown last month.
I’d always thought he just might be missing that extra touch of something special, but I was completely bowled over by him at the Dublin Racing Festival and I’m convinced he’s the real deal. He’s nine, so he’s going to be at his peak this season and if he’s going to win a Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase, it’s going to be this one.
At a bigger price, I think his stablemate Cilaos Emery will run a cracker. He’s very smart and is a very fast horse. He was very good on his last start beating Daly Tiger as easy as he’d liked, and I don’t think he’d be in the race if Willie Mullins didn’t think he’s be able to run a big race.
As ever, the cross country race is a puzzle to solve, despite the fact there’s a short-priced favourite in Easysland .
With that said, he should win it for the second year running. It’s a very tricky race and some horses just love the undulations and banks, and he’s one of them. He’s also got the very experienced Felix De Giles on his back. He’s got plenty of weight for the Grand National, so I think this really is his Gold Cup.
The Grand Annual has moved from the Friday to the Wednesday this year, it usually closes the Festival, so it’ll be strange seeing in the middle of the week!
As in all of these handicaps, you shouldn’t stray too far away from JP McManus-owned horses. You know they’ll have been targeted for this and will have been working backwards from this day all season.
Entoucas has yet to get on the score sheet over fences, but that won’t matter to his connections if he breaks his duck here. He’s run well in some above average novices’ and competitive handicaps this season and that experience will stand him in great stead.
I know from experience of winning it on a Willie Mullins outsider in the past that his first-choice horses have a bad history in this race.
But those records are there to be broken and they may well be broken this year as Kilcruit will go off relatively short-priced under Paul Townend.
He would have been the chosen mount of Patrick Mullins, who gets the first call, and that is telling. He was so good last time out and I know some may say the race fell apart, but race fall apart all of the time and it takes a good horse to win it in the style that he did. He’s above average and he could just be too good.
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