A mouth-watering prospect on paper for this traditionally gruelling Grade B Handicap with a good pot up for grabs. Read on for our experts’ thoughts and betting tips.
IN SUMMARY: Gordon Elliott is looking for his 3rd win in this race in as many years and he saddles no fewer than 11 runners in this. Noble Endeavor looks to have a good chance of going close judged on his run behind Snow Falcon in the Lismullen Hurdle last month which should have him spot on for this. Cause of Causes is a dual Cheltenham winner and can go well off top weight and Empire of Dirt has a good run in him judged on his effort when last seen winning a valuable Handicap at Cheltenham in March. Expect them to go well. Sambremont is of obvious interest for the Champion Trainer and can run them close if improving over the summer. Raz De Maree won the Cork National well and has form lines with some of these but is up 5lb and that may find him out here. JP McManus loves to win these types of races and he also holds a strong hand here with both Hash Brown and KILLER MILLER expected to go well. The former was impressive winning at Galway nearly a month ago and will give it a good go of following up but the latter gets the selection who remains with bags of potential after his good 3rd behind Shantou Flyer in a Grade 2 at Punchestown last year and has the assistance of Barry Geraghty on board. His master trainer does well with horses form this family and remains in sparking form. He could be hard to beat. BONNY KATE could follow her stable-mate home if re-discovering her best form.
1 Cause Of Causes – Dual winner at the Cheltenham Festival including the Kim Muir Handicap Chase at Cheltenham in March by 12 lengths. Pulled up in the Scottish Grand National and only 5th of 6 in the Grade 2 Fortria Chase here 2 weeks ago, well behind that day. Up in trip today and trainer probably has better chances but definitely capable of a good run despite top weight.
2 Empire Of Dirt – Previously trained by Colm Murphy and won a good Handicap Chase at Leopardstown in January and followed up with a career-best in a valuable Handicap race at Cheltenham when last seen. Was in with a shout before falling 3 out in this race last year. 16lb higher than last year and makes his debut for new yard today who continue to send out winners for fun. Could play a part if his jumping holds.
3 Thunder & Roses – Previously trained by Ms Sandra Hughes under whom he won the 2015 Irish Grand National. Pulled up on first start for this yard in a Handicap Chase at Cork 3 weeks ago won by Raz De Maree. Wears cheek-pieces today and looks up against it today.
4 Noble Endeavor – Won a decent Beginner’s Chase at Down Royal last December and then followed up with a fine 2nd in a Grade 2 here in February. Only 5th of 7 behind Snow Falcon form the Noel Meade yard in the Lismullen Hurdle here 2 weeks ago. That should put him spot on for this and judged on his earlier run here can go close if repeating that.
5 Bless The Wings – Won at Fairyhouse last November when getting up to win the Porterstown Handicap by ¾ of a length. Fair form since without winning and only 6th of 9 on seasonal bow at Clonmel 10 days ago. On a decent mark back over fences but others look more likely today.
6 Realt Mor – Won here in 2013 and 2 wins this year, most recently at Downpatrick when comfortably winning a Handicap Chase by 7 lengths. Only 3rd at Cheltenham on latest start 16 days ago and that was a good enough run. Much more needed in this and wears a hood for the 1st time.
7 Domesday Book – Fine Novice last season with a good win in a Beginner’s Chase last December, thumping a field by 13 lengths. Below par on return last month when only 5th of 7 at Wexford. Has plenty to do to win this although yard and still in fine form.
8 Draycott Place – Back-to-back wins already this season scoring nicely by 13 lengths at Sligo in September and then staying on dourly to win at Cork by 3 ¾ lengths form Another Rebel from the Mick Winters yard. Decent 3rd on last start at Cork last week but concern he has been on the go for a while now and this will be tough. Up in trip and can be overlooked in this given how high he is in the weights now.
9 Shadow Catcher – Well behind in 5th to Sub Lieutenant in the Grade 2 Titanic Belfast Chase at Down Royal on Good ground 22 days ago. Up in trip and looks to be one of the lesser lights from his stable.
10 Killer Miller – Back-to-back wins at Limerick and Naas last year before a 3rd behind Shantou Flyer from the Rebecca Curtis yard last November. Has an absence of over a year to overcome but he was impressive in those two wins and remains with plenty of potential. Has the assistance of Barry Geraghty in the saddle and this stiff track should suit his running style. Player for in form yard.
11 Sambremont – Won 2 nice races at Fairyhouse and then a Grade 2 here at the start of the year. Not seen since April when only 9th of 15 in a Handicap Chase at Punchestown. Still lightly-raced for a 6-y-o and has solid-each way claims.
12 Raz De Maree – Only 1 win since 2012 and that came last month and that came in the Cork Grand National Handicap Chase. Stayed on to win by ½ length that day from Forever Gold from the Edward Cawley yard. Up 5lb for that win and that could make life tough in a much better race than last time.
13 Bonny Kate – Rattled off a hat-trick of wins at the end of last year and start of 2016, scoring at Fairyhouse, Punchestown and Limerick. Something looked amiss when pulled up next time out at Fairyhouse in the Irish Grand National and 6th of 13 on last start at the Punchestown Festival. Had a break since then she can play a major role if ready to go on seasonal start.
14 Mountain King – Won at Perth 2 starts ago, staying on well to win a 4-runner event by 1 ½ lengths. 2nd at Stratford last month and a long way behind that day. This looks much more demanding and looks up against it.
15 Venitien De Mai – Back-to-back victories at Downpatrick and then Naas in the Spring and only 6th of 7 behind Bay of Freedom from the Peter Fahey yard in a Listed event at Wexford 27 days. Has relatively low mileage for his age but does have a lot to prove in this line up.
16 Woodford Island – Produced a career best to win a Beginner’s Chase at Fairyhouse 20 days ago having previously scored at Navan in January. Fair form in between but has gone up markedly for his last win and can be ignored off his current mark in this tough looking race.
17 Folsom Blue – Hasn’t won in 6 runs since 2014 and was well backed for the Kerry National 2 starts ago in September. Pulled up in that race and again at Limerick on last start and hard to fancy for this wearing blinkers.
18 Abolitionist – Previously trained by Shark Hanlon and decent run on first start for yard when finishing 2nd of 8 in a Handicap Chase at Wexford last month. Stayed on well that day but has much stronger opposition to contend with here and can be overlooked this time.
19 Akorakor – Pulled up before 2 out on last start in the Cork National 3 weeks ago won by the re-opposing Raz De Maree. Others look to have a better shout in this and looks another of his stables lesser lights. Three wins in 2015 but not well treated in this.
20 Captain Von Trappe – 10 runs since last Win in October last year and fell in the Cork Grand National 21 days ago. Has cheek-pieces on today and an unreliable type who will undoubtedly find things tough in this.
21 Killer Crow – Hasn’t won since scoring at Navan last year and only 8 ½ lengths 5th of 9 behind Realt Mor in a Handicap Chase at Down Royal 23 days ago when an awkward landing 2 out cost him the race. Up in trip today and hard to fancy with his jumping set to be severely tested in this.
22 Down Under – Previously trained by the late Francis Flood and two wins at Kilbeggan earlier in the year. Only 5th of 10 behind As De Pique from the Gavin Cromwell yard last month. Never in it that day and would be an emotional winner. Looks up against it with some of these though.
23 Mad Brian – Hasn’t won in 11 runs since 2013. Only 5th of 16 in a Handicap Hurdle here 2 weeks ago. Switches back to Chasing today and a lot to prove here.
24 Hash Brown – Produced a career-best when winning an 11 runner Handicap Chase at Galway 27 days ago, staying on tidily to win by 4 ¼ lengths. Up 6lb for that but seemed to have a bit more in the tank that day and has solid place claims judged on that effort despite this much tougher race. Interesting.
25 Georges Conn – Hasn’t won in 13 runs since last winning in 2015 at Ballinrobe. Finished a tailed-off last behind A Toi Phil form the Gordon Elliott yard in the Florida Pearl last week and hard to fancy in this judged on that run.
26 He Rock’s – Won a decent chase at Roscommon last month powering on well to win by 22 lengths from Sonny B from the John Walsh having previously won well at Galway by 13 lengths. 14 lengths 5th behind Hash Brown in a Handicap Chase at Galway 27 days ago when never able to sustain his effort given the gallop they went although he met interference. Should find things tough again here. RESERVE.
27 As De Pique – Has won twice from 5 runs this year including latest in a Chase at Gowran in October. 12 lengths 4th behind Raz De Maree in the Cork National 3 weeks ago and no reason to believe he can turn the tables here. RESERVE
28 Sonny B – 2 wins at Thurles and Cork earlier in the Spring and a decent 3rd on last start at Punchestown 8 days ago. Looks to have solid each-way claims on form. RESERVE.