Full Shift (12/1) is a likable sort who has been competing in some good races and, as long as his recent runs don’t take their toll, should have an excellent chance here at Each Way odds. Adecent Novice hurdler back in 2014 when he was sent off 9/2 favourite for the Martin Pipe at Cheltenham Festival, he posted a career best chasing performance when a close 3rd at Ayr two weeks ago in a Listed Handicap Chase off the same mark. He’s improved for each of his chasing runs and faced better handicapped horses at Cheltenham when 4th in the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate and with 2 places and a win in his last 3 chasing starts, all in good quality races, we’re expecting another big run.
Willie Mullins won this race last year with Blood Cotil and he has two highly rated entrants, as he looks to add another prize pot to his already bulging seasonal purse. Avant Tout (7/1) will go off as the top weight and will be trying to win at this festival for the second year in a row. He was the surprise 20/1 winner of the Donohue Marques Handicap Hurdle last year, beating the highly rated Rogue Trader and stablemate Pleasant Company by just over a length. Mullins switched him to chasing this campaign, which looks to have been a shrewd move, as he has performed well in two Grade 2 contests, finishing a close second to Outlander at Limerick and winning over three miles around the same course on his last outing, beating fellow entrant Lord Scoundrel (14/1) by two lengths.
Sambremont (14/1) is only six pounds lower in the ratings than his stablemate, but unlike Avant Tout, he has won over this distance this season. He was the odds-on favourite for that race at Fairyhouse, and with Ruby Walsh in the saddle, they trounced the field, leading from pillar to post to win by 16 lengths. He also won a three horse Grade 2 race at Navan, beating the heavy favourite and Ryanair contender Ttebbob by two lengths. Out of the two Mullins runners, he looks like being the best bet.
A. J. Martin’s Marinero (12/1) really struggled on heavy ground at Gowran Park on his last run, fading dramatically to eventually finish over 70 lengths behind the favourite Tell Us More. However, he clearly prefers better ground, and his previous chase results in more agreeable conditions have been promising. He was fourth at Down Royal in October, behind Gordon Elliott’s highly rated Noble Endeavor, before coming second over this distance at Fairyhouse, six lengths behind Bonny Kate, who went off as the favourite for the Irish Grand National last month. He will come into this one nice and fresh, and with Bryan Cooper in the saddle, he should have a good chance.
Barry Geraghty is already confirmed to be riding Marlbrook (6/1) in this race, but it’s hard to make a claim that he’s good value at a single figure price given he’s now been backed into favouritism. The eight year old will come into the race on the back of some very good results, finishing first ahead of pretty modest fields on his last two outings at Naas and Fairyhouse, and coming a close second to Noble Endeavor at Down Royal back in December. However, soft ground specialists have struggled so far in this Festival, he’s only ever ran once on anything firmer than soft and on that occasion he finished 19 lengths behind Champagne Fever around course and distance here in late 2013.