4.15 Fairyhouse – Ryanair Gold Cup Novice Chase Grade 1 – 2m4f
Even though this race comes very quickly after the Cheltenham festival, a field worthy of its Grade 1 status has been entered.
Leading the way on the official figures with a BHA mark of 155 is Kerry Lee’s 7yo, Kylemore Lough, who has made rapid progress since switched to fences this season and now bids to gain a fifth consecutive win. This race is tougher than the small-field handicaps he has won on his last couple of outings but he’s in rude health and needs to be taken very seriously.
However, the one to beat is OUTLANDER (7/4). One of three declarations from the Willie Mullins stable, this 8yo was still travelling well before falling at the fourth-last fence in the JLT Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham recently. Before that, he enjoyed Grade 1 success in the Flogas at Leopardstown (2m5f, soft to heavy) in February. He seems very versatile ground-wise and, providing his confidence has not been affected by his experience at the festival, he can gain a second success at the highest level.
Supporters of Otago Trail need to forgive his very laboured run at Haydock in January but he impressed when running his rivals ragged in a Chepstow handicap (2m3f, heavy) two starts ago. He might need heavy ground to be seen to best effect but remains an exciting prospect for Venetia Williams and is expected to make a splash in Graded company at some stage.
Another possible contender is McKinley, who finished miles behind Outlander two starts ago and was under pressure when unseating his rider at Cheltenham last time, but was a Grade 1 hurdle winner in 2015 and won’t be far away if first-time blinkers enable him to recapture the form of his comfortable 2m1f course success in January.
Lord Scoundrel is 4-8 over fences but needs to better the form of his small-field win at Thurles last month to land this prize. Blair Perrone finished just ahead of Lord Scoundrel when second in a Grade 2 contest at Leopardstown (2m3f, soft) in January but is 3lb worse off today and both were grossly flattered by their proximity to the winner, Killultagh Vic. Vedettariat won a run-of-the-mill event over 2m5f here very easily last month but has much more on his plate today.