A quality and competitive 2m1f handicap chase with a topweight rated 148 and soft ground the order of the day. Read on for our expert runner by runner guide to the race plus our free tip.
IN SUMMARY: BALL D’ARC looked unlucky over Christmas at Leopardstown when hampered by a faller at the last. His mark is unchanged and he can take full advantage under what look to be ideal conditions. Baltimore Rock has shown his best form going right handed so this will be perfect for him and he represents the biggest threat. Jarry D’Honneur and Peoples Park both represent JP McManus with Barry Geraghty preferring the latter despite the likely ground favouring the first named. A market move for either of them would be interesting.
1 DAYS HOTEL – Admirable veteran whose last three wins have all come in the same Grade 2 Chase at Naas in February. Making all in small fields has suited better in the past, he struggled to stamp his authority early in this race last year and could only plug on in 5th. That was off a pound lower mark so on balance, he may be best watched with a return to Naas next month in mind.
2 BALTIMORE ROCK – Pick of his form has come going right handed (three wins and a second in six starts) and looked like enhancing that record before being badly hampered four out at Ludlow last time. The handicapper has been more than fair dropping him two pounds for that with a return to softer ground suiting with three wins on soft or heavy. Trainer Neil Mulholland is 0/10 with his Irish raiders in his career but looks to have an each way chance of breaking that hoodoo.
3 TTEBBOB – Fluent winner of his first two chase starts, so much so that he was sent off just 3/1 against Douvan at Christmas 2015. Those wins on soft and heavy over 17f and 18f suggest he will appreciate conditions here but he has shown little since, pulled up on three of his last five starts. With fellow front runners in the line up, it looks doubtful that he will be able to dominate and that is a negative
4 JARRY D’HONNEUR – Two wins in six starts since arriving at Closutton from France on the two softest surfaces he has encountered so conditions should be perfect underfoot. He has a little to find with Dysios and Ball D’Arc on their run at Leopardstown over Christmas but that was a step forward from a dismal run over C&D here on his return. It Is folly to dismiss anything from the Willie Mullins yard out of hand and a market check is advised.
5 PAIROFBROWNEYES – A victim of his own consistency, placed five times in his last six starts, rising half a stone in the weights in the process. He scored the sole success in his trainer’s fledgling career in December 2015 but has found the rising mark a hindrance since. All four career wins have come on deep ground and all right handed so track and surface look in his favour, he is sure to run his usual honest race.
6 DRAYCOTT PLACE – Another in the line up who tends to race close to the pace, he is a relentless galloper as he showed at Cork in the Autumn, turning the screw from the third last and grinding the field into the ground. He ran a sound third off a pound higher mark than this at Cork, plugging on one pace but he looks in the grip of the handicapper for now.
7 BALL D’ARC – Unlucky not to win at Leopardstown over Christmas when badly hampered at the last. He regained his momentum to finish third just behind the re-opposing Dysios but was the moral victor. His three hurdling wins all came on deep ground at a bare two miles. Connections have tried him both over further and on quicker ground without success so this return to a softer surface will be a big plus. He is still only six and with improvement likely is very much the one to beat.
8 PEOPLES PARK – The choice of Barry Geraghty of the JP McManus pair, he won a C&D handicap off a nine pound lower mark in December. Also a winner over hurdles at the track, the course clearly suits him but both of his chase wins have been on a sounder surface which raises a slight doubt.
9 DYSIOS – Flat bred, by a speed influence, it is no surprise his first turf win came over 7f, on good to firm ground at Brighton! He has proved himself on deeper ground since moving to Ireland, winning at Leopardstown over Christmas 2015, finishing second in the same race in 2016. The yard are without a winner since August however under either discipline and a place may be the best he can hope for.
10 GUITAR PETE – Formally very smart, 3rd in a Triumph Hurdle, he has looked increasingly out of love with the game. His most recent effort of note was when 3rd in this corresponding race in 2016 off a three pound higher mark. That would suggest he is overpriced but it was a rare sound run and he is only one for the brave.
11 LEAP DEARG – Has failed to win for two years now, his latest victory the last in a hat-trick of winning efforts. He has struggled from higher marks since, finding himself still five pounds above his most recent winning mark. Behind Peoples Park and Draycott Place already this season, he looks likely to struggle here despite having the ground in his favour.
12 TURN OVER SIVOLA – Notoriously difficult customer for Alan King, finishing runner up ten times in twenty three chase starts. Gordon Elliott may find the key to him but he finished last when most recently sporting cheek pieces while a sounder surface showed him in a better light when racing in the UK.
13 CAOLANEOIN – Successful just the once in twenty one starts over fences when springing a 20/1 shock at Naas in March. That saw his handicap mark rise a stone and it’s been an uphill struggle since then. He was hampered at the final fence last time he was seen but had shown a little more life that day, for all that this looks tough from three pounds out the weights.
14 MISTER HOTELIER – Six pounds lower than when notching up a C&D win in November 2014 but he has shown little since. The pick of his form has been this way round including all four of his wins and four of his five runner up efforts. Very soft ground is no concern but there will be easier opportunities to come back to form than from seven pounds out of the weights here.