Some classy horses make their long-awaited returns in this Listed Race here at Thurles today including the grey Champagne Fever for trainer Willie Mullins and previous Gold Cup winner Lord Windermere. Read on for our experts’ thoughts and betting tips.
IN SUMMARY: Previous Gold Cup winner Lord WIndermere will be popular on his return after a long lay-off but he was pulled up on his last two starts and may need the run today. Wounded Warrior should go well for Noel Meade, having been such a smart-novice Chaser two years ago and knows what it takes to win a race like this but he will struggle to contain CHAMPAGNE FEVER if he is over the problems that have dogged him for the last 19 months. A former winner of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and a runner-up in the Arkle, he is a high-class animal and if his trainer thinks he is ok to run, expect him to go close especially as fitness shouldn’t be an issue for a trainer so adept at getting them ready after an absence
1 Roi Des Francs – Smart Chaser on his day who won back-to-back Chases in the Winter, scoring at Fairyhouse in December when beating the useful Sub Lieutenant and then followed up at Naas less than a month later, beating the highly regarded Pont Alexandre by 1 ½ lengths with Sub Lieutenant again behind this time in 3rd. Well held in 6th on his last start in a Grade 1 at Aintree in April. First start for new yard since leaving Willie Mullin’s and has been off for 7 months. Yard in cracking form.
2 Letter Of Credit – Decent Hurdler on his day who has won here before over 2m2f on Heavy back in February 2014. Won comfortably that day but didn’t follow up until over a year later at Killarney, when getting up beat Baily Green and a field of 4 by 7 ½ lengths. Hasn’t won in 14 subsequent starts since so hard to fancy in this. Only 16th of 19th in a Handicap Hurdle at Galway 24 days ago. Reverts back to chasing today and best watched for now.
3 Champagne Fever – Supreme Novice’s Hurdle winner from 2013 who has developed in to a high-class Chaser since. Only 5th behind stablemate Felix Younger when he was favourite for the Champion Chase at the Punchestown Festival last year. Has been off for 19 months but trainer deems him now ready after such a long lay-off and his class may tell given that he would have been well-schooled for this.
4 Lord Windermere – Surprise winner of the Gold Cup at 33/1 two years ago and was pulled up in his last 2 starts last year in the Gold Cup and then the Grand National at Aintree. Down in trip today he could play a part but has had his problems and will no doubt come on for the run. Best watched for now.
5 Page Turner – Useful enough Chaser who last won over Hurdles in a Handicap at Gowran Park back in January. Seems to prefer Limerick to anywhere else as 4 of his 5 career wins have come there although he was disappointing on his last start there, managing only 3rd of 7 back in April on his last start. Has some 22lb to find with Champagne Fever and has been set a tall order on his seasonal re-appearance.
6 Wounded Warrior – 6th of 10 behind Carlingford Lough in the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown in February but had excuses that day. Has smart chasing form to his name with wins at Nass and Navan a couple of seasons ago. Has been off for 9 months but will certainly give it his best shot on return especially with his yard finding top early season form.