Talking Horses: Energumene can put down Cheltenham Festival marker

Elsewhere on Festival Trials Day, Grand National hero Noble Yeats can enhance his Gold Cup claims by winning the Grade Two Paddy Power Cotswold Chase
Talking Horses: Energumene can put down Cheltenham Festival marker

CLASS ACT: Champion Chase hero Energumene strolled to victory in the Grade Two Hilly Way Chase at Cork last month and can make a winning return to Cheltenham by landing the Clarence House Chase on Festival Trials Day. Picture: Healy Racing

Energumene can crown another cracking week for Willie Mullins by getting the better of Edwardstone in the rearranged Albert Bartlett Clarence House Chase on Festival Trials Day at Cheltenham.

The nine-year-old’s only career debut over fences came in this Grade One contest last year when Shishkin got up late to thwart him in the race of the season at the contest’s usual home of Ascot.

The rematch was eagerly anticipated but the real Shishkin didn’t turn up at Cheltenham, leaving the way clear for Energumene to give Mullins a belated first Champion Chase success.

Energumene ended last season by swatting stablemate Chacun Pour Soi aside at Punchestown and ran out a predictably emphatic winner on his seasonal reappearance in the Grade Two Hilly Way Chase at Cork last month.

A considerably stiffer task awaits here with Arkle and Tingle Creek hero Edwardstone primed for the first of two cracks at the champion.

Alan King’s charge is an admirable horse in his own right but the suspicion is that he lacks the star quality possessed by the current two-mile king.

The expectation is Energumene will come out on top both today and at the Festival but King will hope that Edwardstone can at least get close enough here to make turning the tables in March a credible possibility.

Mullins’ nephew Emmet can strike in the Grade Two Paddy Power Cotswold Chase where shock Grand National winner Noble Yeats is fancied to enhance his Cheltenham Gold Cup claims at the expense of Protektorat.

A 50-1 shot when winning the world’s most famous steeplechase, Noble Yeats was considerably shorter when taking the Grade Two Many Clouds Chase on his return to Aintree and, while the strength of that race can be questioned, the surprisingly potent turn of foot he showed at the business end of proceedings suggested that the seven-year-old is still on an upward curve.

In Protektorat, Noble Yeats faces a rival who ran out a dominant winner of the Betfair Chase on his seasonal reappearance. However, with Gold Cup hero A Plus Tard miles below his best, that Haydock Grade One fell apart and last year’s Gold Cup third may have been flattered as a consequence. 

At 11 years old, Paisley Park should be vulnerable as he goes in search of a record fourth win in the Grade Two Dahlbury Stallions At Chapel Stud Cleeve Hurdle.

However, he proved he remains a force to be reckoned with when winning the rearranged Long Walk Hurdle at Kempton last month.

It’s also worth remembering that he gave his rivals a 20-length advantage through his reluctance to start in last season’s Cleeve but that didn’t stop him from running out an impressive winner.

With old rival Champ taking the direct route to the Festival, Paisley Park is hard to oppose here.

Elsewhere at Cheltenham, Pembroke can complete a hat-trick for the Skelton team by winning the Grade Two Ballymore Novices' Hurdle while the Richard Hobson-trained Fugitif, a dominant winner at Chepstow over the Christmas period, looks the most likely winner of the Paddy Power Cheltenham Countdown Podcast Handicap Chase.

The non-ITV action from the home of jump racing should also provide some important Festival clues and it’ll be a surprise if Gordon Elliott’s Delta Work is turned over in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase while Joseph O’Brien’s Comfort Zone looks the one to beat in the Grade Two JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle.

The Irish can also strike at Doncaster where Grand Soir ought to go close in the Albert Bartlett River Don Novices' Hurdle, a race his shrewd trainer won with Mahler Mission last year. 

The Sky Bet Yorkshire Rose Mares' Hurdle, another Grade Two, looks a penalty kick for Epatante and it’ll be a massive shock if the 2020 Champion Hurdle heroine fails to get off the mark for the season.

The Sky Bet Handicap Chase looks considerably more competitive but Tea For Free has won each of his three starts this season and looks sure to put up a bold bid for Charlie Longsdon.


Cheltenham 1.20: Energumene 

Cheltenham 1.50: Fugitif 

Doncaster 2.05: Epatante 

Cheltenham 2.25: Noble Yeats (NB) 

Doncaster 2.40: Grand Soir 

Cheltenham 3.00: Paisley Park (Nap) 

Doncaster 3.15: Tea For Free 

Cheltenham 3.35: Pembroke

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