A top class mares only hurdle over two miles that has been won in the past by the likes of Annie Power and with two successful favourites in the seven runnings so far and two of them Irish raiders. This year they are double handed with Willie Mullins looking to take the £28,475 first prize with Vroum Vroum Mag who looks the one the others haver to aim at. Officially rated elven pounds superior to all her rivals, even at these weights, she has already won two of her three starts this season at Punchestown and Leopardstown with a short head second to Apple’s Jade in between though there is a question mark over whether this two mile trip is her ideal. In her defence she did win over two miles in the Punchestown Champion Hurdle back in April and may just be one of those rare freaks of nature who is adaptable to all distances, with her last win over three miles when running on well at the death and with her overall race record of six wins and two seconds from eight starts over hurdles she is looking increasingly difficult to oppose this afternoon. Willie waxed lyrical after her last run saying “She´s extraordinary. We know she gets three miles now and she even works with our champion hurdle horses as well. She can jump hurdles and she can jump fences. She will be the super sub in Rich Ricci´s team and we will put her in wherever we think she can win at Cheltenham” suggesting this is little more than a prep race and a cash gathering exercise and the others seem most likely to be running for second place.
At the weights it looks as if Ben Case’s Midnight Jazz is the main danger according to the official ratings as she looks for her fifth win over hurdles on her seventeenth race. She has been a revelation this season with wins at Stratford and Doncaster and more recently a three length second to Lifeboat Mona at Sandown but the truth is those runs are a long way short of her market rival and it would be a shock of epic proportions were she to win this afternoon for a stable with just the one runner and no winners in the last two weeks.
The fact that Champion trainer Paul Nicholls allows winning novice Coillte Lass to take her chance here either suggests her thinks an awful lot of her, or that it is a very weak renewal and he thinks she can pick up some decent place prize money. She has won all three of her races over hurdles at Hereford, Ludlow, and Taunton after her point to point success at Dromahane in Ireland. After her latest win over this sort of trip Paul told the awaiting media “I was a bit nervous about the drop back in trip for Coillte Lass as she had been winning over further. She is a nice mare but there are no real plans for her“, implying that she has more stamina than speed and it will be intriguing to see how near she can get to the principles here with over £10,000 up for grabs if she can finish second.
Intense Tango is another who looks up against it on her return to hurdles having last been seen at Wolverhampton in a Class Two handicaps on the flat when sixth of seven beaten twenty lengths, and she hasn’t been seen over obstacles since this race last year when a twenty-one length sixth of seven to Smart Talk suggesting she has an awful lot to find.
Trainer Dan Skelton is the polar opposite at present with one win from his last twenty runners but that is hardly the fault of Late Night Lily who has won three in a row this season and four of her last five being brought down at newton Abbot on her other outing. Last time out she hacked up in a Class Three handicap at Southwell by an easy ten lengths in December, being sent in to the lead at the last hurdle and quickening up impressively. She is expected to have a future over fences and is clearly better on decent going which she looks likely to get this afternoon as things stand, and is another who could surprise for a place at a price for those looking to oppose the obvious favourite.