Allaho looks likely to dominate once again
The imperious winner of last year’s Ryanair where Allaho dominated from the front in such impressive style. Rarely is it possible for a horse to gallop as fast as he did over such a trip and still have plenty left in reserve to run out an easy winner.
That emphatic success appeared to come out of nowhere despite his 3/1 favouritism after he had beaten Elimay in workmanlike fashion in a Grade 2 at Thurles on his previous start.
It looked as though the promise he’d shown in his novice chase campaign may have been blunted by his lung bursting run to finish third in the RSA where both Allaho and Minella Indo were collared by the rallying Champ. From that point, it was difficult to envisage him returning to the horse he was.
However, Rachael Blackmore sitting on Allaho for the first time, seemed to trigger the emphatic revival and then some in last year’s Ryanair.
He signed off last season when dropping back to two miles for the Grade 2 Champion Chase at Punchestown where he came up against Chacun Pour Soi back at his invincible best with all conditions in his favour.
However, Allaho himself was seen back at his best on his reappearance start in the Grade 1 John Durkan Chase at Punchestown. In that race, Allaho was taking on race-fit, proven Grade 1 performers which was setting no easy task. Patrick Mullins adopted the same tactics seen to such a positive effect in the Ryanair and sent Allaho forwards.
Admittedly, he had looked under pressure from a strong travelling Asterion Forlonge who, characteristically did what he does best, and jumped out to his right at the third last fence and unshipped Bryan Cooper.
It was still a long way from home to be definitive on how Asterion Forlonge would have fared against Allaho but it certainly looked as if those two were going to fight out the win between themselves.
Allaho has taken the same route as last season and again, took in the Grade 2 Horse & Jockey Hotel Chase at Thurles last time out. He made all and was once again, very impressive to win by an eased down 12 lengths over Fakir D’Oudairies who made an early error.
Energumene more likely to run in Champion Chase
Energumene is second in the betting for the Ryanair but is unlikely to take this route and instead, looks sure to go for the Champion Chase all being well.
Saint Calvados may pick up the pieces
There is no doubting the talent Saint Calvados possesses and he’s proven that on numerous occasions. However, he can also be his own worst enemy.
Previously trained by Harry Whittington, he had a solid CV for his former yard including a win in the Grade 2 Kingmaker, the Grade 3 Poplar Square Chase, an October Cheltenham Handicap Chase and a second in the 2020 Ryanair Chase. He was only defeated by a neck behind Min in that Ryanair Chase where he held none other than A Plus Tard and Frodon in third and fourth, respectively.
He’s had a light campaign since that impressive second. He returned on his next start in the King George where he was keen and fresh and didn’t appear to see out the three-mile trip.
His final start for Harry Whittington resulted in an unseat in the rescheduled Grade 2 Cotswold Chase at Sandown won by Native River. He wasn’t seen again last season and was switched to join Paul Nicholls with Kate and Andrew Brooks electing to change yards with their entire Whittington string.
Saint Calvados again, made his reappearance start in this season’s King George which is never an easy feat, as the trends showcase.
He was held up in the King George which was certainly the place to be and allowed Saint Calvados to settle to an extent.
However, it was general consensus that Saint Calvados was sent forwards too soon. He made his challenge after the 13th fence before taking up the running at the 15th fence.
He was keen enough again in the early part of the race and with his premature challenge, he again didn’t see out the three-mile trip.
I hope he’s ridden patiently again as there won’t be a horse who can live with Allaho on the front end of the pace if implementing the tactics seen to such a devastating effect in the race last year.
Janidil has solid form to place
Janidil has very evident claims to do next best of the rest behind Allaho as he has some of the strongest form in the race.
He was a winner of his beginners’ chase on debut and gained a second chase success at Fairyhouse last season in the Grade 1 Gold Cup Novice Chase in April.
He signed off last campaign with a second behind Energumene when bidding for another Grade 1 Novice Chase when no match for the impressive winner.
He’s had three starts this season where he reappeared with a second-place finish behind Allaho in the John Durkan at a big price.
Janidil didn’t see out the three miles in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas but was kept at the trip for the Irish Gold Cup last time out.
He ran well again to finish third in a race that suited him with the sensible early fractions before it ultimately, turned into a sprint.
His stamina wasn’t tested to the same extent over the trip as it was in the Savills Chase which is why he could use his turn of foot and finish third.
He only has one entry at the Cheltenham Festival and it’s in the Ryanair so a run can be expected from him and he looks a fair price to do next best of the rest.
Grade 1 glory likely to evade Mister Fisher
Mister Fisher is a horse who has a lot of ability when all the stars align for him. He again, has often been his own worst enemy in terms of jumping more so than anything.
He looked a very exciting novice chaser as shown when winning his second start over fences at Cheltenham in December 2019. He then won the Grade 2 Lightning Novices’ Chase at Doncaster in good style where he showed plenty of pace. He subsequently finished fourth in the Grade 1 Marsh Novices’ Chase at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival behind Samcro, Melon and Faugheen.
His form has certainly dipped in and out since that novice chase campaign where his only success last season came in the rescheduled Peterborough Chase at Cheltenham.
He was one of the many runners Allaho put to the sword in last year’s Ryanair where Mister Fisher was too close to the frenetic pace that upheld for one horse only.
There was a definite ploy to switch up tactics with Mister Fisher on his next start in the Grade 1 Betway Bowl Chase at Aintree. He was sent forwards by Nico De Boinville where he made plenty of mistakes and ultimately paid for those by unseating at the 12th fence.
However, he once again bounced back to run a near career best performance to finish a neck behind Frodon in the Grade 2 Oaksey Chase at Sandown on his final start of last season.
He reappeared in the King George where he ran no sort of race when pulling up despite being ridden towards the rear which should have favoured him.
Typical of Mister Fisher, he bounced back to win the Grade 2 Silviniaco Conti Chase at Kempton in January. He had all variables in his favour in that poor Grade 2 where Defi Du Seuil once again, disappointed. Eldorado Allen was the only horse who had a solid profile for the race but would have been an underwhelming winner if he had prevailed. Rouge Vif was the only other runner who had failed to beat a rival home on his two previous starts.
He is a definite Grade 2 performer when on song however, he finds life tough in Grade 1 company and that looks likely to be the case again in the Ryanair.
Shan Blue to return after horror fall
It’ll be interesting to see how Shan Blue fares on the back of his lengthy absence following his fall in the Grade 2 Charlie Hall Chase when he had the race at his mercy.
That was his reappearance start and his first in open company after a very solid novice campaign previously.
He won his first three chase starts which included the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton. He dominated that race after jumping well and despite Harry Skelton trying to contain his mount’s enthusiasm, he still ran out a very impressive winner.
He was likely caught doing too much on the frontend of the pace in the Grade 1 Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase when disputing the lead throughout with Paint The Dream. The front running pair were collared by Sporting John who had been forced to race in rear because of poor jumps.
Shan Blue once again, was undone by his enthusiastic racing style in the Marsh Novices’ Chase where he was sent on at the ninth fence. He soon walked, paying for his exertions by kicking too soon. It was understandable why Harry Skelton wanted to use Shan Blue’s jumping and stride to put his rivals under pressure but unfortunately, it backfired.
He signed off with a lesser effort at Aintree in the Grade 1 Mildmay Novices’ Chase behind Chantry House where he looked to show the signs of a long season.
However, he bounced back on his reappearance in emphatic style at Wetherby where he cracked Cyrname by piling on pressure to the frontrunner. That move resulted in Cyrname being pulled up and left Shan Blue’s rivals toiling.
Harry Skelton increased the pace to keep the revs up on Shan Blue into the home straight. Again, it was completely understandable why this move was made as Shan Blue’s forte has always been his jumping at pace. There may well have been a danger that if that was restrained, it would end with a silly mistake.
Unfortunately, Shan Blue and Skelton found themselves on no stride at the third last fence. Shan Blue simply had too much pace to be able to shorten on to the correct stride. He took a very heavy fall and it was a huge relief to see both Shan Blue and Harry Skelton walk away relatively unscathed.
He may potentially be a forgotten horse due to recency bias but we know Shan Blue can be readied after a break and hopefully, he’s had enough time since his fall to forget the experience.
Asterion Forlonge may take different route
There is much debate on which race Asterion Forlonge should take in. Many believe he still has the ability to be winning a Gold Cup if all the stars align for him. Others argue that a tilt at the Stayers’ Hurdle would be a good wildcard option that would relieve his jumping frailties of fences.
At the time of writing he is shortest price for the Stayers’ Hurdle which on paper, looks the least likely option. His second shortest price for the Festival is in the Ryanair whereas he’s currently a 25/1 shot for the Gold Cup.
The ability this horse has shown this season has been very good in amongst absolute chaos.
Asterion Forlonge is either an impeccable jumper or he shuts his eyes, dives away to his right and doesn’t bother to get his landing gear out.
He proved he can save himself on his reappearance start in the John Durkan when he tanked his way into the race. He looked the most likely winner but then ran down the third last fence to his right and pitched on landing. He somehow found a leg to keep himself upright but unfortunately, gave Bryan Cooper no chance and deposited him on the Punchestown turf.
Queue the enigma’s voyage across the Irish Sea to Kempton for the King George.
Once again, he ran a cracker where he sat close enough to the strong pace which wouldn’t have served him well. Yet he was still able to hold his own into the home straight and had fended off all bar the staying on Tornado Flyer.
I had wondered whether there might have been a respiratory issue and that was why he suddenly went braindead. That can very often happen with horses who don’t breathe properly, they don’t try and save themselves over their obstacles. However, there was no sign of any wind operation following Kempton and he came back to run in the Irish Gold Cup.
There’s nothing quite like the resilience of National Hunt punters which was shown in all its glory as Asterion Forlonge was backed into favouritism for the Irish Gold Cup.
However, he never looked in the same form as the King George or the John Durkan at any point. That was certainly a disappointing run as there didn’t appear to be any evident reason for the lack of showing.
That leaves Asterion Forlonge even more perplexing when trying to assess his chances for any Cheltenham Festival race. No matter which race he turns up in he’s sure to have his supporters and I just wish a clear round for him above anything else.
Consistency is key with Fakir D’Oudairies
The very likeable and consistent Fakir D’Oudairies is sure to give his running once more and looks a safe each-way bet in the Ryanair at 30.029/1.
This seven-year-old feels as though he’s been around forever and has a very consistent profile where he’s only pulled up once in his 23 career starts.
He was the only horse to be able to get anywhere near Allaho in last season’s Ryanair where he was aided by being ridden in mid-division. He showed guts nonetheless to come off second best behind one of the most impressive Cheltenham Festivals winners for a long time.
There were no ill effects from the run either as he dotted up in the Grade 1 Melling Chase at Aintree just three weeks later. He didn’t see out the trip of the Punchestown Gold Cup over 3m120y on his final start of last season on just his second try at 3m+.
He returned this campaign with a ready win by 15 lengths in the Grade 2 Clonmel Oil Chase in November. Again, he ran well to finish fourth in the John Durkan behind Allaho and Janidil.
Before seeing the backside of Allaho again last time out when second in the Horse & Jockey Hotel Chase at Thurles. He made a shuddering error at the first fence in that race which was uncharacteristic of Fakir D’Oudairies and saw him drop to last.
Fakir D’Oudairies is a very likeable horse who has proven himself at Cheltenham on four occasions. He’s yet to win at Prestbury Park however, he should be good enough to place at an each-way price once again.
Remembering the day Frankel brought York to a standstill
Believe it or not, it is already 10 years since Frankel scorched the famous Knavesmire turf to win the Juddmonte...
Irish punter lands double horse racing payout from Lucky 15 bet win
Lightning struck twice for a County Donegal Horse Racing punter this week when two wagers placed on the same day...
Ebor Festival 2022: All you need to know
What is the Ebor Festival? The Ebor Festival, established in 1843, is a four-day race meeting held at York Racecourse...
Prix de l’Opera likely to be next step for Nashwa
Nashwa is unlikely to tackle Baaeed in next week’s Juddmonte International at York, with the Prix de l’Opera looking her...
State Of Rest out to prove mile credentials in Prix Jacques le Marois
State Of Rest will head to the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville on Sunday rather than lining up in...
Mostly Cloudy to make Group Two leap against Stradivarius and co
Fortune could favour the brave as Gemma Tutty prepares her ever-improving Mostly Cloudy to run at Group level for the...