Un De Sceaux was a brilliant winner of last year’s Ryanair Chase and it’ll be a huge surprise if the Willie Mullins-trained 10-year-old fails to retain his crown this afternoon, writes Darren Norris.
The flamboyant frontrunner has won 20 of his 26 career starts with two of his eight Grade One successes coming at the Cheltenham Festival.
He has looked as good as ever this season, cruising to victory the Hilly Way Chase on bottomless ground at Mallow in December before winning the Clarence House Chase for a third time in decisive fashion in January.
With today’s race having cut up quite dramatically and with ground conditions very much in his favour, he should take the world of beating today. Odds of 11-8 look more than fair.
It might be worth doubling Un De Sceaux up with stablemate Laurina as the five-year-old is strongly fancied to outclass her rivals in the Trull House Stud Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle.
Laurina is two from two this season and the fact both of those wins came on heavy ground bodes well for her prospects today. She could be pretty smart.
A case could be made for quite a few in the feature race of the day, the Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle, but a chance is taken on Yanworth.
At first glance, the fact this horse is reverting to hurdles having been campaigned over fences this season is somewhat off-putting. However, a similar late change of heart worked the oracle for Buveur D’Air, another JP McManus-owned horse, at last year’s Festival and Yanworth certainly possesses the raw ability to go close today.
Alan King’s charge was a bitter disappointment when flopping in last year’s Champion Hurdle but got back to winning ways by outstaying the re-opposing Supasundae when stepped up to three miles at Aintree a month later.
That looks strong form and it could well be that those two fight out the finish again today.
The opening race of day, the JLT Novices’ Chase, looks pretty tricky but Gary Moore’s Benatar has done nothing wrong over fences – three wins from three starts this season - and should give his supporters a good run for their money at odds of around 9-2.
The Willie Mullins-trained Invitation Only, third to Monalee in a top-class renewal of the Flogas Novice Chase at Leopardstown last month, looks the biggest danger to the selection.
The final race of the day, the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup, can go the way of Mall Dini. Pat Kelly’s charge won the Pertemps Final two years ago and was a somewhat unfortunate fifth in this race 12 months ago.
Granted reasonable luck in running, he can make amends today.
1.30 - Benatat
2.30 - Un De Sceaux (NAP)
3.30 - Yanworth
4.50 - Laurina (NB)
5.30 - Mali Dini
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