A progressive sort over hurdles for Ellmarie Holden, LACHARES is now onto a career high mark, but it does look achievable with how much he is improving at present and another good effort is on the cards from the four year old. Twice a winner in March when exploiting a clearly good mark, he has placed on two subsequent efforts for connections including on his latest start at Kilbeggan, beaten around seven lengths but far from disgraced as he probably would have preferred better ground. Another step forward would be no surprise and going back to better ground could be the catalyst to further progression. He has to be considered a main contender and is respected with Racheal Blackmore taking off a useful 3lb.
Incredibly consistent and very tough for Gordon Elliott, Sanibel Island has won twice over hurdles and is still potentially on a mark he can exploit for top connections. His latest win came three starts ago at Navan in heavy ground conditions, comfortably putting away his rivals after travelling well throughout the contest. He was raised 8lb as a result and upped in trip for his penultimate start, making a bad mistake at the fifth and he was found to be lame afterwards with a cut to his hind leg. Back down to two miles on his latest start he was a good fifth at Punchestown, hinting that a step up in trip would suit and he gets that in this under Denis O’Regan. He’s got sound each way claims once again as long as he stays, with the switch to better ground not any sort of issue.
Any Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh horse is likely to be popular in the betting and that will probably be the case with Andrea & Graham Wylie’s Sure Reef, who ran a good race on his latest start and is likely to be competitive again off the same marl. Well beaten in the Coral Cup at the Festival, he ran a good race at the Punchestown Festival in a Grade B handicap, finish sixth after perhaps the trip stretched him. He should be much happier back down to 2m 4f off the same mark, with better ground unlikely to be a problem for the eight year old. He looks almost sure to go well again under Walsh and has to be considered.
JP McManus has a battalion in this contest and his best chance looks to be Joseph O’Brien’s Plinth, who has strong claims of a follow up after his latest success at Kilbeggan. In that run he had returned from six months off the track and had been upped to this trip for the first time in softer conditions, seeing it how strongly to beat Flaxen Flare on the line, with Lachares back in third. He has leading claims back on better ground if in the same vein of form once again Mark Walsh, though he is very much exposed compared to some which could be a worry as Lachares may well have his measure now he has his preferred surface.
Although rarely seen over timber these days for J R Barry, Akito is on a potentially dangerous mark as he reverts to this discipline and looks a lively danger under the in form Paul Townend. The seven year old won over fences on his penultimate start and although a no show last time out, his hurdling mark is substantially lower and he’s potentially well treated off a mark of 118. He has placed off this mark before and the better ground conditions will not be a problem for him, so he is certainly an interesting runner and he has place claims at the very least.