A Grade B Handicap Chase run over 3 miles, the Paddy Power Chase promises to be a fantastic race this season with many big names going for the near E100,000 prize.
Running with credit when 4th in the Becher Chase earlier this month, UCELLO CONTI still seems to be on the improve and that effort represented a career best for Gordon Elliott’s 8 year old. Elliott was very pleased with his run in the Aintree race, stating: “I thought he’d come on a bit for the run but he’s run a blinder”. That would suggest that better things can be expected this time around with Elliott hinting that this race is the next target (“He’ll probably go for the Paddy Power now”), he has to be hugely respected.
The current favourite is The Crafty Butcher, who has only run once for Willie Mullins when finishing 3rd at Navan in a Grade B Handicap Hurdle. He’s been very inconsistent over fences on previous starts, but if there is any trainer who can improve him that will be Mullins, and off of a basement weight he would be very dangerous to discount.
Unable to complete the Grand National this year, Gallant Oscar is all heart and a 10 year old who isn’t to be written off just yet. Winner of a Grade B Chase in the past, Tony Martin’s gelding had a pipe opener at Cork last month when a close 4th over an inadequate trip. Back over fences and back up to a trip that will suit, he should definitely be involved for the trainer who won this race back in 2014.
Off 9st 6lb, a basement weight, Thomas Mullins’ Oscar Knight is one of the more interesting contenders for the race. Winning last time out in comfortable style at Navan over 2m4f, he’s intriguing upped to this distance for only the 3rd time and considering he is only a 7 year old, improvement can still be expected. Although the trainer has cast doubts on his attendance, stating: “I don’t know if that will get him into the Paddy Power, or even if JP (McManus) or Frank (Berry) want to go for it, but he’s in the race anyway so it’s there and I’ll leave it to the owner. If they want me to run, I’ll run. I’m very happy with today”.
Just being pipped in the Martin Pipe back in 2015 at the Cheltenham Festival, Noble Endeavour has been a mixed bag since. 2nd in a Grade 2 at Navan back in February and 4th latest in the Troytown Handicap (Grade B) in November, he’s slowly been building up his consistency. He does need to show further improvement if he’s to feature in this but at only 7 years old that is very possible, especially with how well the Gordon Elliott yard are going this season, capturing 2.1 million euros thus far in prize money.
At bigger odds, Henry De Bromhead’s Stellar Notion could well be a dark horse in the race. Previously with Paul Nicholls before moving on to the De Bromhead yard in early 2016, he has run some very creditable races for the stable and posted a near career best when upped in trip and a running on 2nd at Limerick back in October. That was his first attempt at 3 miles and he saw it out very well despite being keen in the opening stages, and there is hope that if he can settle better he’ll be an even stronger stayer at this trip. Seems to be ground versatile which is a big plus, as is him being a front runner who may be able to dictate his own terms, so he has to be considered.