Betting Strategy: 4 Backs & 1 Lay
Weather: Overcast, very small chance of a shower (2mm maximum). Max temperature 11C.
Going: Good to Soft (official*)
* Good to soft is the desired starting point, so there tends to be a slight bias in the official report, but the official description looks the correct call to our eyes, with the track gradually drying out after heavy rain last Tuesday. The track can dry quickly in warm weather, but that doesn’t look an issue given a cool/overcast forecast.
The main feature of the day is the fact that the dominant Willie Mullins trains the favourites for all four Grade 1 races on the card, and traditional bookmakers will be inundated with multiple bets combining the quartet. Those liabilities may see a significant difference in the odds on offer on the exchange compared with those available through more traditional outlets, and off-course firms will attempt to depress the SP of Vroum Vroum Mag should the first three legs of this bet come in.
*All times AEDT
R4 Stan James Champion Hurdle Grade 1 2m 87y – 2:30am
Race Analysis & Key Trial Races
Betting centres on Annie Power, who has been supplemented for injured stablemate Faugheen, although trainer also saddles Nichols Canyon, who beat Faugheen in the Morgiana Hurdle, and also bested Identity Thief in Leopardstown’s Ryanair Hurdle in December. The latter beat Top Notch in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle, while The New One was second to Faugheen in Kempton’s Christmas Hurdle, and took Haydock’s Champion Hurdle Trial in January. Nicholls Canyon was only third in the Irish Champion at Leopardstown, but both the winner and second are now on the sidelines.
Killer Stat: This is a very poor race for five-year-olds (Hargam, Peace And Co, Top Notch, Old Guard) with only one winner from 94 representing the age group in the race since 1985.
13. Annie Power: Effective at a range of trips, and would have won OLBG Mares’ Hurdle on this card a year ago but for a last-flight fall. Returned from injury with easy win in lesser grade last month which proved little. It must be emphasised that there is a huge gulf in class between the Mares’ race and the Champion, and given she’s not been specifically trained for this race, represents moderate value. Price has drifted since weekend, but she is likely to gain strong support on the day.
6. Nichols Canyon: Beat Faugheen in Morgiana at Punchestown when able to dominate, but failed to fire behind the same horse at Leopardstown under different tactics. Also made all when beating Identity Thief in Ryanair Hurdle, and key to him seems to be making the running. Arguably has strongest form on offer, but faces competition for early lead, and that may count against him.
3. Identity Thief: Jumped scrappily when beating Top Notch in Fighting Fifth, and second to Nichols Canyon in Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown. Travelled very well in the mud that day, and appeals as type to do significantly better on a sound surface. Should have race run to suit, and if brushing up his jumping, looks certain to run well. Would be no bigger than 5.5 in our book, and likely to be well backed.
5. My Tent Or Yours: Top-class at his best, and narrowly beaten in this two years ago. Not raced since beaten the following month however, and almost impossible to see a horse who has been absent so long being able to win a race of this nature. Has galloped in a citation bit recently, suggesting that his headstrong nature hasn’t been curbed. Flashy traveller could trade shorter in the run, but must be opposed.
LAY (Place) My Tent Or Yours – Liability 5 units at < $3.60
BACK (Win) Identity Thief > $8.00 for 2 units
R5 OLBG Mares Hurdle Grade 1 2m 3f 200y – 3:10am
Race Analysis & Key Trial Races
A recent addition to the Festival, with inaugural running won by Whiteoak in 2008. Since then has been a Willie Mullins benefit with Quevega winning six in a row, and Glens Melody taking advantage of Annie Power’s last-flight fall to continue the yard’s dominance.
Mullins had the choice of Annie Power or Vroum Vroum Mag for this race and chooses the latter, who has yet to taste defeat in eight starts over obstacles for her current yard. She has mostly had easy pickings, but impressed when winning a Grade 2 at Ascot in January.
Polly Peachum and Bitofapuzzle were placed in this race a year ago, and that looks the most reliable guide to this contest.
20. Vroum Vroum Mag: Campaigned mainly as a chaser for the Mullins stable, but seems just as good over hurdles, excepting her slightly exaggerated jumping technique. Not been stretched in maintaining her sequence, including in Grade 2 at Ascot, but worth iterating that the form of that race is not as strong as would have been expected. Still hard to know how good she really is.
14. Polly Peachum: Closely related to star chaser Denman, she is set to retire to the breeding paddocks after this race, but has a fair chance to go out on a high having finished a narrow second to Glens Melody last year. Arrives here off a similar preparation, and looks at least as good as ever, which augurs well for a big run.
2. Bitofapuzzle: An excellent third as a novice in this race last year, and back over hurdles after suffering mixed fortunes in novice chases. Ran poorly at Wetherby last time, but reportedly had a breathing problem there, and since operated on. Likely to return to form, but concern for her is that she is essentially a stayer, and may get done for toe in a tactical race.
1. Aurore D’Estruval: A big player if finds form which saw her finish second to Irving in 2014 Fighting Fifth (G1), and encouraging debut for new yard in Grade 2 Relkeel Hurdle in January. Flopped behind Vroum Vroum Mag at Ascot last time, however, and needs to show she can bounce back. Risky.