IN SUMMARY: This is a significant step up in class for VENETIEN DE MAI, the winner of a 2m4f beginners’ chase at Down Royal last month, but he remains lightly raced as a chaser and his point form drops a strong hint that improvement will be unlocked on this first attempt at 3m under rules. Gallant Oscar flopped over hurdles on his latest outing but is a very useful tool when on song and not yet fully exposed over fences. Last year’s very close second Bothair Clei also needs to bounce back from a below-par hurdle run but is another to consider.
GALLANT OSCAR – Gained impressive win at Punchestown festival (3m1f, soft) in May and wasn’t done with when unseating rider at penultimate fence in valuable Leopardstown contest when back in action in December; disappointed over hurdles last time but remains of interest.
GOONYELLA – Thorough stayer who won Midlands National at Uttoxeter (4m1f, soft) a year ago and was very creditable second in Scottish National the following month; comes here on workable mark but yet to strike form this season and would make more appeal over a marathon trip.
GOLDEN WONDER – Missed 2015 and was soundly beaten when returning to action over hurdles on New Year’s Day; entitled to have needed that reappearance run and now only 2lb higher than when going close in 2014 Irish Grand National, but has more to prove than some of these.
CAPTAIN VON TRAPPE – Has patchy record and just one win from seven starts over fences but probably wasn’t suited by drop back to 2m4f when third in first-time blinkers here last month and is capable of better over today’s trip; could have a say.
NICKNAME EXIT – Displayed improvement when wide-margin winner of Navan handicap (2m4f, heavy) in December, his third start over fences; pulled up in Thyestes Chase in January but got back on track with hurdle win in new headgear last month and is open to progress in this sphere.
VENETIEN DE MAI – Four-time point winner who seems to be making progress under rules this season and won beginners’ chase at Down Royal (2m4f, heavy) last month; takes on stronger opposition here but has more to offer now upped to 3m for the first time under rules.
FUTURAMIC – Posted sound effort when runner-up to Venetien De Mai at Down Royal last month and is 4lb better off with that rival here, but is now 0-6 over fences and has failed fully to convince stamina-wise on previous couple of attempts at 3m; others preferred.
BOTHAIR CLEI – Gave excellent account when very close second in this race last year; effectively 4lb higher from 1lb out of the weights this time and didn’t run very well in first-time blinkers (now removed) over hurdles last month, but no surprise if he makes a bold bid.
KYLECRUE – Bounced back from some disappointing efforts when creditable third at Leopardstown (2m5f, soft) a week ago, despite lacking fluency over the fences; 1lb out of the weights today but the longer trip is in his favour and he won’t be far away if in the same form.
AD IDEM – 12yo with modest 1-19 strike-rate over fences; appeared to be travelling well before unseating rider at third-last fence in recent 3m veterans’ chase at Navan but contests this stronger race from 4lb out of the handicap and is not one to rely upon too heavily.
FOREVER GOLD – Ended 2015 in good form with cheekpieces refitted, going close over fences at Fairyhouse (3m5f, soft to heavy) before winning big-field hurdle at Leopardstown (3m, heavy); claims on that evidence but this won’t be easy from 4lb out of the handicap.
IBETELLINGYOUALIE – Two decent runs in defeat this year, and the drop back to 2m4f was probably not ideal when third at Gowran on more recent occasion; evidently in good heart but needs to produce a new career-best performance to have any chance from 5lb out of the handicap.
ART LORD – Drew nicely clear to win run-of-the-mill handicap at Ayr (3m, heavy) in January but wasn’t in same form at Leopardstown a few days later and blotted his copybook back at Ayr last month (reluctant to race and pulled up before first fence); 7lb out of the handicap.
myracing Forecast Prices: 4/1 Venetien De Mai, 6/1 Gallant Oscar, 7/1 Nickname Exit, 8/1 Goonyella, Captain Von Trappe, Kylecrue, 10/1 Bothair Clei, 12/1 Futuramic, Ad Idem, Forever Gold, 16/1 Golden Wonder, Ibetellingyoualie, 33/1 Art Lord