By Tommy Lyons
Aside from Footpad’s crystal-clear claims in the Ryanair Novice Chase, today’s card looks quite difficult for punters, but Auvergnat looks worthy of support despite top weight in the Friends First Cross Country Chase for the La Touche Cup.
Last season the Enda Bolger-trained runner had a profitable time over regulation fences, winning the Killarney National before finishing runner-up in the Connacht National.
He fell on his return to cross-country chasing, at Cheltenham in November, but won over this course in February and wasn’t disgraced in fourth behind Tiger Roll at the Cheltenham Festival on his most-recent outing.
As a relatively lightly raced eight-year-old, he has the potential to improve whereas the majority of this field looks thoroughly exposed, and his relative freshness can prove the difference today.
Bless The Wings comes here after a superb effort in the Aintree Grand National but that was only 12 days ago and it would be a remarkable performance were the 13-year-old to back it up.
He won’t have to be at his very best to play a part, but it will be surprising if he doesn’t find one or two too good.
When betting opened, yesterday afternoon, for today’s Ryanair Novice Chase Footpad was a 1-2 chance and it’s not hard to see the big players taking this price.
He holds Petit Mouchoir on all meetings to date over fences, and his old rival looked a tricky customer when just touched off at Aintree.
With Footpad having missed Aintree, he will be fresher than Petit Mouchoir and it’s hard to find any reason why, bar a fall, he won’t confirm this season’s form. Castlegrace Paddy doesn’t see the track too often, but when he does he is pretty smart, and he may be good enough to chase Footpad home.
The Grade One Ladbrokes Stayers’ Hurdle is the feature event and Penhill can take this at the expense of Bacardys and Identity Thief.
The 2017 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle winner was making his seasonal debut when winning the Stayers’ Hurdle at this season’s Cheltenham Festival, and it’s reasonable to expect improvement from him.
That race was run at a modest early pace and, in effect, wasn’t the thorough stamina test it can be.
In the circumstances, he did very well to win, having been held up way off the pace, but the 100-rated flat horse has a knack of finding a way to win over hurdles.
Seven from 10 in this sphere, he is a real class act, and can take this at the expense of stable-mate Bacardys.
Tommy Lyons' tips (next best in brackets):
3.40 Apparition (Lord In Red)
4.15 Townshend (Bon Papa)
4.50 Auvergnat NAP (Cantlow)
5.30 Penhill (Bacardys)
6.05 A Great View NB (Last Goodbye)
6.40 Footpad (Castlegrace Paddy)
7.15 Eoline Jolie (Moyhenna)
7.45 Getareason (Dunvegan)
This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner.