With Cheltenham hosting its first meeting of the season, the jumps really are back! From Frodon’s devastating jumping, to Fusil Raffles and Rogue Vif flexing their Festival credentials, the meeting had it all.
The next few weeks will be one of the most exciting times of the season, as we see all of stars slowly emerging from their slumber. That is very much the case at Wexford on Monday. The venue hosts a seven-race card, with two of last season’s leading lights making their returns on Monday.
Minella Indo starts road to Gold Cup
We last saw Minella Indo finishing second in the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. Henry De Bromhead’s star caused a 50/1 shock to land the 2019 Albert Bartlett and was seen just three times over fences last season, but he made those appearances count.
Beaten by Laurina on chasing debut, he recorded a cosy success at Navan prior to his Cheltenham tilt. He looked the likely winner of the RSA that day, with Champ picking his pocket in the dying strides after he fluffed the last. It was still a superb performance, however, and he can only improve in 2020/21.
He took gigantic steps forward with each of his three chasing starts last term and surely connections will be dreaming of Gold Cup glory this term. He faces just three rivals on return in the Grade 3 M.W. Hickey Memorial Chase. He concedes weight to his main rival, Milan Native, who himself won the Kim Muir back in March.
He has match fitness thanks to a short-head success at Galway earlier this month, but Rachael Blackmore will surely have enough underneath her to make a winning reappearance.
Andy Dufresne bids to bounce back
Talked about as a Cheltenham Festival contender for much of last season, things didn’t quite go right for Andy Dufresne. Gordon Elliott’s charge was an impressive winner on hurdling debut last season, recording a Grade 2 success at Punchestown over Captain Guinness to headline his campaign.
There was inconsistencies in the form, however, suffering defeat twice and being absent since a disappointing defeat in a Naas Grade 2 back in February. Despite that, he remains an exciting prospect and he’s thoroughly unexposed after just five rule starts.
His 2020/21 campaign begins in the Garry Flood Landscaping Beginners Chase, where he’ll make his chasing debut. There should be plenty more to come from him now he’s sent over the larger obstacles, but the main point of contention will remain his optimum distance.
He’s won at both 2m and 2m 4f, but he’s also suffered defeat at both trips. Starting his chasing career over two miles, his performance could have big connotations as to where he ends up in end of season targets.